EFR - Reviews of Play With Myself: The Trials and Tribulations of Drama Practitioner Gregory Bike

Play With Myself: The Trials and Tribulations of Drama Practitioner Gregory Bike

Sat 2nd – Sat 23rd August 2014

reviews

Lili Thomas

at 09:41 on 6th Aug 2014

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The Dragonfly is one of my favourite venues. The intimate and slightly hidden backroom has a true Fringe Festival feel and I never fail to feel like I’ve come off the beaten track when I watch Free Fringe acts there.

Gregory Bike finds himself caught in the world of the failing actor; yet, his need to stage a successful production is made all the more serious by the impending death threat he and his family face from a the ancient curse of the fair-ground ride. This is a sketch with a clear tendency towards the bizarre.

Playing With Myself’s main source of comedy lies in Liam Hale’s comic timing and characterisation as Gregory. The audience is allowed an insight into his peculiar and pitiable life. Whilst the sketch’s plot is surreal and at times a little too odd to really grab the audience’s inspiration, Gregory Bike and his odd habits carry the show. Liam Hale’s character has certain behavioural quirks which I could easily see solidifying into famous motifs. Although his nasal voice seemed at first slightly too forced, I soon realised it was the perfect fit for the character and his various ticks and hesitations had me chuckling heartily.

Other characters in Gregory’s life slide in from the tech box, and, dressed in their matching berets, Dominic Davies really does share a family resemblance as Gregory’s son, Trev. Davies came across as an equally pathetic character, wistfully reminiscing over his first kiss with the CPR doll in the Scout Hut. David Paes as Maxwell Slate, the agent, and Rio Matchett playing his daughter Penelope both bring refreshing bursts of energy onto the stage. Although the show occasionally fell slightly flat, not helped by the small audience size, I was impressed with the cast’s enigmatic energy. Pulling in Sean Stokes from the Sound tech was a comical move which allowed a moment of reality within the surreal, thanks to Stokes’ realistic and quiet delivery.

The self-conscious ridiculing of the pretentious actor which simmers beneath the rather odd plot ensures laughter when the sketch begins to weaken a little. In a festival which is seemingly swarming with thesps it was a pleasure to step back and tease all of the actors who fill the ‘empty spaces’ of Edinburgh with their hand-clapping warm ups and quivering romanticism. If you find yourself passing by on Grassmarket, Playing With Myself is the perfect pit stop to step back and refuel with Hale’s display of the failing actor at its most extreme.

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Henry Holmes

at 10:13 on 6th Aug 2014

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In this show we see Liam Hale expressing every frustration and more with the insanity he encountered in his dramatic career. He plays Gregory Bike, theatrical visionary, who is looking for a show, and tells the tale of his eventful career, his romantic conquests and his battle with an ancient curse.

In the back room of a pub, with a minimal audience, we are truly taken on a journey through horrifying tales of dead dogs, terrorising techies and sinister sexuality. It’s a madcap world as Gregory and his son Trev attempt to succeed as dramatic actors in the cruel world of the theatre, impeded by gormless techies, empty "proomises" and their own slightly unhinged minds.

The somewhat stereotypical and exaggerated nature of these two characters was initially offputting, but the humour was much more advanced than that; expect spectacular puns and a wonderfully pastiched musical number. The more down to earth characters around the pair do very well at portraying the ‘straight man’ role, and the occasional glimpses of other abnormal individuals presents us with a world not quite like our own.

As a show about an actor there is a lot of humour related to the various trials and tribulations of theatrical production - it does seem to be a play for theatrical types to recognise their own incompetent young sound operators and utterly unworkable obsessive directors. To an outsider some of the jokes might have not as worked so well. The show constantly plays with its own absurdity, which leads to a number of utterly bizarre and hilarious exchanges.

The acting generally is very strong for a free comedy show. The finale is satisfyingly conclusive and there is a strong sense of emotional closure; the audience did become emotionally involved with the characters and the callbacks and wrappings up of earlier parts of the play are very successful.

The show has a very distinctive sense of humour, although it probably would have been more successful with the larger audience, which it definitely deserves. I particularly enjoyed the characterisation, and the silliness that appears slightly offputting at first is well counterbalanced by the rest of the show.

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