zazU: Raisins to Stay Alive

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Miriam Brittenden

at 10:17 on 16th Aug 2016

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This show is funny – very funny. Perhaps not what you’d expect from a show about an impending apocalypse, but this is sketch comedy at its best, written and performed from the surrealist comedy group zazU.

It opens with the announcement that the island of Zazu (an alternate, wacky universe in which singing is taboo and raisins are ‘as rare as diamonds’) is going to be 'flipped over’ in 12 hours and bring about the end of the world. We meet Andon, the unlikely hero who is selected by a Scottish guardian angel in a sunhat to save the world. Cue a dramatic quest for the raisins, which features all manner of weird and wonderful characters.

The show takes many traditional fairy tale clichés, and gives them a ‘Zazu’ twist: the son (named Paul McCartney) whose mothers Ma and Moo are horrified when he ‘comes out’ as a singer; the irritating but somehow charming sidekick Isla, and a Romeo and Juliet-style romance of forbidden love, but with the Juliet role filled by a Scouser mermaid called ‘Clam’. This is comic genius which defies reason or logic, and is all the more witty for it. zazU should be praised here for their excellent writing.

Many of the sharpest comic moments are to be found in the utterly nonsensical ‘fillers’ in between scenes. Likewise, the scenes which feature in the overall narrative would would have been just as hilarious as stand-alone sketches. Toothy Karen and her “F*cket list” was a particular highlight (think bucket list, but the apocalypse version). The rapturous response of the audience testifies that the occasional, but not overwhelming, audience participation is also popular.

The ensemble works together seamlessly, embodying an impressive number of different characters with an unrelenting energy that never fades. They bounce off one another, sustaining a comic magic that is a joy to watch. Maddie Rice, Harrie Hayes, Nick Read and Tom Machell must be praised for some truly outstanding performances.

The show also captures something about human nature – though it is all rather silly, there are shards of reality in how the inhabitants of Zazu respond to the news of the apocalypse, and how we ourselves might react to the same news. Perhaps a bit too absurd for some folk, this is just the kind of comedy that is making people laugh right now. You just have to go with it. If you’re prepared to leave your sensible self at the door and embrace the weirdness, settle in for a tale of epic hilarity, and watch out for the twist at the end.

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Ellie Donnell

at 10:31 on 16th Aug 2016

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If asked to describe ‘zazU: Raisins to stay Alive’ in one word, I would have to say random – for that is exactly what it is. But this is an insufficient description for the hour of hilarity that leaves every audience member in stitches. This semi-apocalyptic piece follows the strange happenings of four work colleagues who attempt to impede the end of the world. What follows is a series of bizarre yet hysterical events: even a scene which features a singular orange evokes a heavy bout of sniggering.

Although 'Raisins to Stay Alive' is undeniably chaotic and surreal, each storyline and running joke is cleverly wielded so that the audience is left laughing during the obviously bawdy humour, whilst pleasantly surprised. Our expectations are easily and frequently subverted.

All four actors, two male and two female, inspire feelings of awe at their equal duplicity. The performance is characterised by movement and eclecticism; constant scene changes, costume variations and accents evoke not four characters on stage, but a diverse host of personas which cater for every sense of humour. Nick Reed takes on a Turkish monkey, fez and all, Maddie Rice miraculously becomes a scouse mermaid, and Tom Machell provides an admirable performance as ‘guy with fringe’ whilst Harrie Hayes brings on the hilarious character of Karen. Karen’s character involves the audience, choosing people in the front row to read out the actions in her literal ‘f*cket’ bucket, a moment of audience participation that produces genuinely funny results rather than just an embarrassed and shy spectator.

The humour and style of the piece is comparable to that of the surreal ‘Mighty Boosh’. The sudden interspersions of talking animals, mythical creatures and outbreaks into song are accepted as normal in the eccentric world created on stage. There is even a moment when the sheer comedy of the piece is too much for Rice and Machell, who can’t help but snigger uncontrollably at the weirdness of their own acting. This moment of weakness does not necessarily appear unprofessional, but merely proves the overwhelming hilarity of the performance.

Wacky, clever and side-splittingly funny, zazU's 'Raisins to Stay Alive' is not a piece that can be captured in words. It must be experienced to be understood.

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