The Babysitters

Thu 31st July – Sat 16th August 2014

reviews

Fay Watson

at 02:16 on 8th Aug 2014

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The genre of black comedy was made with "The Babysitters" in mind. This play was written by student writers Matt Dann and Lewis Meade, with Dann also in the directing seat and Meade in the role of Tommy.

It follows Tommy and Dave babysitting the man tied up in their cupboard, whilst eating Chinese food and playing Cluedo with only two people (one of the major crimes portrayed in the piece). A phone call turns the already dark tale into something a lot more sinister. Thrust Stage, the theatre company behind the piece, transport the show from winning 'Best Play' at the Durham Drama Festival 2013 with great success to the C Cubed venue.

Every actor in this play is strong and plays their role to comedic perfection with peaks and troughs of hysteria at the ridiculous situation they face balanced with moments of solitude. All the cast are strong but Dave (Michael Forde) stood out as the classic over-exaggerator and world renowned Cluedo and Monopoly champion.

George (Alex Morgan) also impressed as the tea-obsessed psychopath who has to resist slitting the throat of Tommy (Lewis Meade) over his preference of coffee over tea - a sentiment I utterly sympathized with. If I had any criticism with the acting acting it would be that at some points delivery was ever so slightly off in timing, which was only noticeable given the fast paced farce nature that relied so heavily on pace of dialogue. However, this was easily forgotten in the roar of near constant laughter in the packed audience.

As strong as the acting was, it was facilitated by a fantastic script. Personally, this was my favourite aspect of the play. The clever and surprising dialogue enabled an original and hilarious concept to leap off the page. This was a play of contrasts and parallels: takeaway food and home-brewed tea in teacups; brash babysitters and tweed adorned psychopaths; and, most of all, comedy and violence. The resulting piece was a mismatch of shifty and inept characters attempting to hide their ineptness by trying to duct-tape the increasingly dwindling situation back together again.

If pushed, my only criticism would be the reliance on black-out transitions. Given the lack of complete darkness, this only succeeded to take you out of the world of the play rather than suggest the passage of time. But this is a minor quibble and easily cancelled out by the smart, gory, scary and dark comedy that this company has achieved.

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Marnie Langeroodi

at 02:50 on 8th Aug 2014

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Tommy (Lewis Meade) and Dave (Michael Forde) are the little guys; they’re low in the criminal hierarchy. When the boss gives them a task that’s a little too much to handle, suddenly the games stop and reality kicks in.

The audience, charmed by Tommy and Dave’s dysfunctional friendship champion the boys against the real baddies. It’s their mercy, morality, and passionate reluctance to do harm against the cold, calculated and merciless approach taken by Barry (Hugh Train) and George (Alex Morgan) that enraptures us. Train’s performance is outstanding; his assumed affectations add tremendously to his character.

Meade and Forde’s exchanges are hilarious; the script is excellent and well delivered. Dave’s exasperation and Tommy’s incompetence bounce off each and are performed with expert comic timing so that the audience is continuously laughing-out-loud. Forde is captivating; we completely believe Dave’s eccentricities and his sense of urgency as the events of the play unfold.

The dark side is also the ridiculously posh side, and it’s where murder is reduced to a mundane and trivial act: winging wives and wine-gums are set against agonized wails - then there’s tea, torture, traitors, screwdrivers, screams and spring rolls.

The incongruity of Barry and George’s domestic complaints amidst such serious themes is clear to all. At the same time, the audience realise that they can be accused of the same indelicacy: we laugh at and relish in the play’s humour, and sometimes we’re caught laughing at the misery and pain of the characters on-stage. We particularly feel for ‘Eddie’, a middleman truly stuck in the middle, believably portrayed by Will Downs. Simultaneously, torture has never been so funny.

Dave and George’s characters are the most well developed and again the writing is excellent in these instances. Dave’s compulsive lying and George’s love of tea are explored to great comic effect.

All the actors use the space on stage well, while props are used extensively and heavily relied upon. (Meade’s screwdriver/gun moment was a particular favourite of mine).This is an extremely well executed play and a must-see at this year’s Fringe.

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