EFR - Reviews of Intimate Strangers

Intimate Strangers

Thu 16th – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Anwen Jones

at 00:39 on 18th Aug 2012

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Contrary to what the title seems to suggest, The Intimate Strangers is not a play about heavy hearted romance, lost love or perverse encounters between people who have never met. Instead, be prepared for a trickle of strangeness running into a river of oddity and finally a torrent of all things bizarre.

Enter Rizollo (Matt Radway), a ridiculously camp drama and comedy innovator with a slight lisp and what seems like a German accent occasionally punctuated with French intonations. Standing imposingly centre stage his diva-like voice announces ‘Comedy is dead’ – a phrase I am already certain will be overturned by the end of the play - accompanied by the expected flailing of arms and an over-the-top sigh. His mission (or should I say destiny, calling, ultimate dream)? To top-up the comedy-o-meter with the help of his so-called minions. What follows are multiple sketches, divided by the occasional video footage, involving old ladies with pink and blue hair, a cooking session with a questionably mentally unstable cook, rehearsals regarding the fate of Anne Frank and, ultimately, a musical with characters such as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes which is IN NO WAY to do with scientology…

Executed with flair, originality and infectious dynamism, it is clear that the cast of 5 enjoy every second on stage. In particular, praise should be given to James Thomas whose hilarious facial expressions and originality of character coupled with his absolute commitment to playing any role in each sketch made him the star of the show. His achievement is even greater considering the obvious amount of talent that the other cast members possess; each and every person on the stage provides something strong and entertaining and, unlike the majority of other plays I have seen at the fringe, there was no weak link within the group.

The only downfalls to The Intimate Strangers performance existed in the over-arching idea and structure. The idea of the comedy-o-meter felt more like a solution to connecting each sketch rather than acting as an idea which would drive the play, so more like a pencilled in after-thought rather than a well-developed concept. In addition, some sketches were not as successful as others which meant that comedic development was sometimes halted.

Nevertheless, The Intimate Strangers amazed me; it was something I could not have anticipated. The crazy scenes and characters are quite simply out-of-this-world (literally in some cases) and a professional and naturally funny cast make it a production definitely worth seeing, demonstrating that comedy is most certainly not dead but live, kicking and slightly insane.

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Thomas Brada

at 11:15 on 18th Aug 2012

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'Intimate Strangers' is a strange name for a strange show which nonetheless had me chortling quite earnestly from start to finish. With a number of sketches examining (I use the word examine very loosely) polemic issues ranging from the obesity epidemic to the obsession with food porn cooking shows, 'Intimate Strangers' is a relentlessly energetic piece. However, the performers are able to maintain the audience's engagement throughout this comedic chaos with two key devices.

First, there is a vague narrative thread which is returned to at various times throughout the performance, lending it a sense of continuity amidst the general mayhem. Secondly, the projection of short and snappy videos in between sketches works an absolute treat, as the production avoids the awkward pitfalls of clumsy scene changes and revolving performers which detracts from so many other sketch comedy troupes. However, slickness cannot compensate for pure comedy, yet fortunately 'Intimate Strangers' possesses this in (clubs) and spades. The performers seemingly conform to the stereotypical drama student: extrovert, excitable and ever-happy to hurl themselves around stage in a variety of bizarre costumes, curious postures and mildly racist accents. This comedic concoction is perfectly complemented by the innate talents of the cast. The single female performer more than holds her own amongst the testosterone heavy cast, while each of the men performed with a mix of skilful acting and calculated buffoonery.

While I gush profusely about the surprising quality of this little show, it is important also to be aware that perfection is a tough beast to tame. The narrative continuity is provided by the repeated sketch of a man desperately trying to perform, what I perceived to be, his personal version of Jesus' resurrection (exchanging Jesus for the concept of comedy, obviously). While this successfully ties the performance together, the characters in this sketch pale in humorous comparison to the deaf, old ladies sketch and the genius of the necrophiliac knight sketch. Furthermore, there are a some sketches which could benefit from rather punchier conclusions, rather than lingering for a moment too long and losing the comic momentum.

'Intimate Strangers' swings madly from fantasy to reality in a way which reminds me quite fondly of the classic 'Carry On...' films. You're not going to get deeply insightful political humour and profound social satire, yet this quirky but quality troupe managed to put a smile on my face and some laughter in my lungs.

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