The Kidnapper's Guide

Fri 5th – Tue 16th August 2011

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Imogen Sarre

at 11:50 on 15th Aug 2011

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Heaving with young people and with great reviews from last year’s production, this seemed promising. And it was almost too good to be true: with only a few productions left, I urge everyone who can to go and see this. Even if farcical drama isn’t really your scene, it was so well executed that it’s definitely worth seeing it so that you know what it’s like at the top of the tree.

About the attempted kidnapping of a famous actor by three incompetent stooges, and his revenge on his friends and family when no one wants him back, the play contained all the classic ingredients of a farce – an improbable plot, exaggerated characters, and a whole flurry of entrances and exits – yet it never grated as I find farces can often do. This was down to the supremely talented cast, whose acting abilities across the board were solid and, in some cases, quite exceptional.

The ironically named ‘Smart’, George McFadyen, was quite phenomenal – he managed to engage with all the classic stereotypes of the thickie yet simultaneously present himself in a different acting league to the usual idiots. His lisp was spot on, his mannerisms deftly done, his comic timing superb, and his fixation on a cheese sandwich endearingly ridiculous. His lines could easily have dragged as they became more predictable, yet his quickness prevented anything from seeming stale. Lewis Doherty, who played Leo, was another gem. You would have thought that his blindness would make for one hysterical joke – tops two – yet despite being used repeatedly throughout the play, it never failed to amuse. I’m not talking tired, bedraggled laughter here, I’m talking the big resounding stuff, coming from all sides of the audience, bouncing off the walls in its enthusiasm. Doherty really did have a quite outstanding sense of timing and delivery, commanding the audience’s attention with masterful precision. The rest of the cast were talented, but it was these two that pulled it up to a first notch production and were primarily responsible for keeping the audience giggling throughout. The fishing father, Alex Butler, let the side down a bit, but perhaps his scene dragged so much because his purposefully extensive monologue cut too stark a contrast with the fast and witty exchanges which characterised the rest of the production. Full of diverse and well acted parts, I loved the Girl Scout Antonia Bourdillon with her whistling enthusiasm, Adam Hartnell with his mesmerizingly high and tightly wedged trousers, Patricia Ferran as the terrifying Spanish lady (accent just right), and Chazz Redhead as the repulsively lecherous ‘feeler’. This was a most enjoyable night: a slick, professional, fast-paced, fun and funny production that I can’t recommend enough - whatever your feelings are on farce.

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Ingrid Jendrzejewski

at 11:51 on 15th Aug 2011

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If you look on page 239 of the Fringe guide, you’ll see that Article 19 never intended to take The Kidnapper’s Guide to Edinburgh. They’d been preparing a production of Arsenic and Old Lace until about four weeks before the festival when they ran into some rights issues and found that they’d not be able to perform Joseph Kesselring’s comic masterpiece at all. Instead of throwing in the towel and heading for the beach, however, they devised a comic masterpiece of their own, and that’s the treat that’s in store for anyone who pops along to Zoo to see The Kidnapper’s Guide.

With only a month to write, refine, rehearse, direct, produce and perform a brand new show, you might expect a review of The Kidnapper’s Guide to be littered with words like ‘despite’, ‘considering’, and ‘under the circumstances’. Forget all that.

Fast-paced and frenetic, slick and smart, The Kidnappers Guide is a tour de force. The script is tight, the acting is superb, the staging is hilarious – heck, even the accents are spot-on. Every single member of the company pulled their weight and they make the most of a small space and simple set.

The show is set in that somewhat-naïve, slightly-screwball 1950s America that only ever existed on vacuum-tube televisions sitcoms and Hollywood Technicolor. Until you see this show, you don’t know what you don’t know about cheese, fish, Puerto Rico, kidnapping and communists. You can take your grandparents or grandkids to this show without any embarrassment, yet the comedy doesn’t have a sanitised-for-family-audiences feel. It's just good, pure fun.

Article 19 is a theatre group from Birmingham University, but the only hint that this is a student production is the fact that an elderly gentleman is played by a strapping young man.

Frankly, I am delighted that their plans for Arsenic and Old Lace fell through. The Kidnapper’s Guide punched me in the face with funny and the world is a better place because of its existence. If this is what Article 19 can pull together in a month, I can’t wait to see what they do next....

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