EFR - Reviews of Peter Piper - The Man Behind The Legend

Peter Piper - The Man Behind The Legend

Sun 5th – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Lettice Franklin

at 09:32 on 8th Aug 2012

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I am sitting in a room deep in the heart of a functioning shopping mall - a room suspiciously deserted and in a state of disrepair that suggests it may not have been seen by human eyes for quite some time. I am accompanied only by my fellow reviewer, two baffled-looking men, and a man with a piece of cabbage over his mouth, holding a bomb. I am quite genuinely terrified. Chekhov notoriously suggested that a weapon placed on stage must be used - and in this arena the number of potential victims is dangerously small. In addition, Sam Quinn, the cabbage-bedecked protagonist and sole actor in this show, is convincingly deranged.

Quinn’s performance deserves plaudits. He is near-electrifying on stage (“please, only near”, one thinks, sitting in the audience). His control never falters in a performance which demands him to shift between several roles, nor does his conviction in his difficult, bewildering material. A show which takes a tongue twister as its title and starting point requires an actor with impressive verbal dexterity, which Quinn has in bucket loads.

It is however hard to rate this show. I can think of nothing I have seen at Fringe to rate it against - nothing is comparable. I left having even less idea what this show aimed to do as I had when I arrived. The show had comic moments: an imaginary pea telling jokes about his fat girlfriend, the broad bean, for example. These jokes however tip from comedy to insanity, seeming closer to proof of schizophrenia than innocent wordplay, leaving you not laughing, but on edge.

Quinn is part of the Soiree (The Society of Insignificant Re-Enactment Events). The society’s manifesto sets out an aim to re-enact moments which “in the view of most historians are “insignificant” but which in our view are realistic, human and true.” While this piece veers far from realism, it does perhaps celebrate the human propensity for individuality.

It has a definite political stance: Peter Piper aims to destroy the huge corporations that control our food industry. Here, the location worked wonders: the smell of McDonalds burgers wafting from the outside mall was a perhaps accidental masterstroke that made Piper seem irretrievably surrounded by enemies, and his room the last temporary enclave of escape.

Is Peter Piper a small, unique act to be championed among the many more simple, more conventional Fringe shows? It is not an enjoyable show, it is not straightforwardly funny, nor moving. Far more explanation is needed if the audience is to come close to understanding what they are watching. If however, Quinn does not intend to leave us with any simple feeling of pleasure or comprehension, but instead ejected straight into the bustling mall, baffled and uneasy, then this show is a success.

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Elizabeth O'Connor

at 09:54 on 8th Aug 2012

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I have been sitting at my laptop for the last ten minutes trying desperately to think of a way to describe 'Peter Piper: The Man behind the Legend'. It is, in short, a play about vegetables. It features genetically modified carrots, a beard made out of a cabbage leaf and a talking pea. This is really all I can come up with: it is as bizarre and nonsensical as it sounds, and whilst I applaud the imagination and unconventionality of the piece (after all, that's what the Fringe is all about), it doesn't entirely come together as a comedy show, with most jokes falling a bit flat. It is really as funny as you can imagine a play about vegetables to be, and unfortunately the topic doesn't offer a wealth of comic potential.

The piece begins well, with a strong scene of silent physical comedy, but after that degenerates into a monologue which switches randomly and inexplicably between vegetable puns and political conspiracy theories. Perhaps the point was to juxtapose between the two in a completely surreal way, but this was lost on an audience who either couldn't keep up or were too busy wondering how many more vegetable jokes could be conjured from thin air. For all the wackiness of the idea and slick execution, the piece couldn't escape from the fact that it was simply quite difficult to follow and understand.

The weakness of the concept is a shame because the performer himself is actually very talented, delivering an impressively naturalistic and fluid performance. Despite the almost alienating insanity of the protagonist, Peter Piper remains a wholly plausible and likable character: we are completely drawn into his world and never stop to question its surrealism. Each of the roles was distinctive, human and committed to, a skill particularly apparent in scenes with an entirely believable talking pea. The show also boasts an impressive grasp of different comic mediums, and a creative approach to structure. There are moments of striking originality: voiceover, physical comedy and an impressive command of tongue-twisters were employed to good effect, lending the show a sense of fun which, if not hilarious, was wholly enjoyable.

If you are looking to see a typically weird and wonderful Fringe show, one so absurd it makes you wonder how on earth they came up with the idea, then this might be for you. It occasionally misses the mark but is charming in its imaginative approach, and the performer clearly enjoys himself as he delivers something new and unique.

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