EFR - Reviews of Guido!

Guido!

Tue 6th – Thu 22nd August 2013

reviews

Millie Morris

at 10:43 on 9th Aug 2013

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Guido – the little-known alternative name of England’s infamous Guy Fawkes – takes to the stage in this zany musical, which combines humour and historical detail to create its near-faultless take on the plotted attack on Parliament that haunts Britain every November 5th.

Clustered onstage are garishly-styled characters whose costumes serve to harmonise the minimal amount of props; this is a show carried through by the strength of its acting and does not depend on fussy staging. The intimate space allows for the actors’ singing voices to be heard clearly, which plummets the audience into song and story and leaves them ensnared by the famed tale of gunpowder and treason.

The assumption that this might provide a dry insight into the religious history of a Protestant monarchy is turned sharply on its head in this fresh, funny play. It is brought to life by characters’ humility, modern vocabulary, and songs which could be soliloquies. Strikingly, Guido is presented not as the sole perpetrator of crime but one who is led into his misdeeds by others, displaying an age-old moral which is more relatable than one might expect. These touching moments arise elsewhere within what could be seen as superficial comedy, where, for all his childishness, the King shows vulnerability in the quest to seek a true friend, turning petty into pity. The stark language used in Guido’s torture song provides a chilling contrast to earlier light-heartedness, once more marrying humour with the harsh reality of 17th Century England.

The acting itself is commendable, with Tom Bailey’s portrayal of the King’s associate Knyvett particularly shining through in his pedantic enunciation and sharp delivery. A highlight within the play is the Innuendo song, where cleverly crafted lyrics are put to the chemistry of Elizabeth (Amy Forrest) and Guido (Matt Houston), who embody their feelings in a cat-and-mouse song and dance where the prostitute teaches the unsuspecting Guido to dirty his mouth. Where the rest of the cast later join them in a group dance, the movement could be better synchronised as actors start to slip out of time with each other, but overall it does not detract from the strength of the play.

As a thoroughly enjoyable performance which should be commended for its comedic and historical value, this is certainly not a Guy you would want to burn on the bonfire.

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Emily Brearley-Bayliss

at 10:48 on 9th Aug 2013

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Written by Matt Limb and co-directed by himself and Christabel Clark, ‘Guido!’ by DHK Productions, wowed audiences by being spectacularly okay. Although a perfectly competent production, it somehow failed to have any lasting impact on me. The main conceit of the play, to turn the famous Guy Fawkes, of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, into the ‘revolting’ Catholics’ reluctant poster-boy was interesting, and actor Matt Houston managed to make the character positively likeable. Boldly transforming King James I into a pouting child, even more shockingly played by a female actress (Clark), worked startlingly well, although many of the jokes reeked of overly pointed satire that was simply not relevant to the plot.

The fact that the audience was sparsely populated, to say the least, did not help to relieve any of the palpable awkwardness. As is often the case with young actors, there was a level of confidence missing from many performances, which prevented them from fully connecting with the audience. While they all played their parts well, the ability to look entirely comfortable on the stage gave way to slightly overacted clumsiness at times. Saying that, Amy Forest threw herself into the part of prostitute Elizabeth with vigour, succeeding in seducing both the audience and the hero. However, some of the crudeness of her jokes and songs somehow jarred with the overall tone of the performance: a song about STIs seemed unnecessary alongside humour that was otherwise quite mild.

The musical aspect of the performance was much like the rest of it – okay but slightly unnecessary. Against the backdrop of a show that I assume was written mainly for comedic purposes (but can’t be sure) most of the songs were oddly melancholy. They were usually merged with moments of intended hilarity, leaving the audience in a perpetual state of wondering how to process the issues being presented. With limited instruments being used, predominantly just a piano, Musical Director Josh Stutter gave us a selection of songs which were nice, if a little too obsessed with making the lyrics rhyme. This included an incredibly amusing little ditty about innuendo, and an upbeat (for a change) finale which, despite uneasy moments throughout, left the show on a high.

Some genuinely funny moments sporadically exacted the incredibly British quick release of air from the nose by way of laughter, but this was not a laugh out loud comedy. There was a noticeable tension that prevented either actors or audience from completely relaxing and enjoying themselves, but the bubbly ending saved the day, and brought the whole thing back to the status of, well, alright.

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