EFR - Reviews of Enter The Bagman

Enter The Bagman

Wed 3rd – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Eloise Heath

at 10:52 on 19th Aug 2016

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In this bizarre character showcase Brendan Murphy, aka 'the Bagman’, is a career cloakroom manager. As he explains, "each bag brings you £1 closer to retirement". Murphy is unerringly likeable, and so even in the bijou (read ‘minuscule’) space, eye contact and interaction are never awkward. His characterisation is similarly impressive; committed and convincing at every turn. However, the quirkiness of the plot never quite dispels the sense that Murphy is just seeking a platform for some preexisting sketches, which is a shame.

In an unashamedly odd premise, Bagman’s livelihood is threatened, and he sets off on a quest to find "the answers". Along the way, he collects a rag-tag team of bizarre characters. Murphy reincarnates himself as each oddity with the help of hats, wigs and, strangely enough, plastic eggs pulled from the bags scattered across the tiny stage. The props are endearingly low-tech. The baddies, for instance, are played by a sponge on a stick, lit from below by a torch. I would describe the entire execution as weirdly effective, with equal emphasis on both.

The show is essentially a vehicle for Murphy’s bizarre comedy characters. The first is ruff-wearing, robustly-bearded, "well known actor" Alan Lombard. He treats us to a dramatic warm up, including a bizarre audience participation quiz called "Bear or Human?". Bob Bourbon, an inexplicably American washed-up singer, falls slightly flat but Johnny, the DJ from a station for children in hospital, is hilarious and smart in equal measure. He gives a shout out to a little boy with appendicitis, reassuring him that "I feel you" and "appendixes be crazy for real", before "starting a party" in the burns ward. Edward Knives, a cowardly daredevil, shouting ‘DANGER!’ whilst scattering confetti on the front row is similarly brilliant. Across the board, Murphy is totally committed. A drip of sweat forming at the end of his nose is swiftly dispatched in character- he wipes his face with a sock puppet called Michael Parkinson, muttering "thank you Michael, that is necessary".

There is a delightful self-awareness to ‘Enter the Bagman’. Johnny the hospital DJ protests that it’s very common to find a man in his late twenties on the fringe of the entertainment business. In a similarly meta moment, Bagman sets up a cloakroom at the Edinburgh Fringe: reviewers flock to say "Is it a cloakroom? Is it art? I don’t care, FOUR STARS!".

It’s a weird show, feeling at times a bit cobbled together. It is, however, consistently funny. Perhaps most importantly, Murphy is personally winning. He executes this solo show with energy and aplomb, and I defy you not to like him. Worth a watch.

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Miriam Brittenden

at 11:42 on 19th Aug 2016

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A slightly bizarre, but undoubtedly original concept for a show, 'Enter the Bagman' is a story about a man in a cloakroom (who deals with a lot of bags) telling us about an adventure he goes on, and the people he meets. This one-man show, written and performed by Brendan Murphy, is an originally fun blend of stand-up, sketch, prop-comedy and cabaret.

Murphy comes to embody four different characters within the show, whom the narrator-like Bagman meets on his quest "to find the journey’s end". Each is distinctly different, and each very funny to watch. We have Adam Lombard, the eccentric and thespy Shaespeare actor; Bob, the ex-heroin-addicted American kids entertainer; the London kids hospital radio presenter who speaks in "bruvs" and "safes" and finally the not-so-daredevil stunt performer Edward Knives. Every role is full of energy, wonderfully capturing certain stereotypes.

Murphy’s command of props throughout is stellar. All of the key props, costumes and items of set are concealed within bags – from a large brown suitcase, to Tesco carrier bags, and Murphy deftly produces a performance from these which is both visually impressive, and cleverly executed within the overall concept of the show. The use of plastic eggs with faces on as "shrunken" versions of Alan, Bob, and Ed is a neat idea, which enables him to move from one character to the next. Likewise, the use of a plastic phone dangling from a plastic rod, passed across to members of the audience for ‘radio call-ins’, is one of many examples of Murphy's creativity.

Murphy should also be praised for his audience interaction. There are some very funny moments, which involve fooling the audience members into unwitting participation, and then making them look and feel very stupid. This is something which the audience actually receives very well – it establishes a great rapport.

Nonetheless, I do at times find the performance a bit too ‘surreal’ for my tastes, and difficult to follow. I am unsure why this 'Bagman’ is on this quest, and some of the characters that feature are definitely less comic than others, particularly Bob and Ed. Some development on these sketches would undoubtedly improve the piece.

'Enter the Bagman' is not something I was expecting to enjoy, or even something I would have wanted to book. I am, however, pleasantly surprised. This is an originally comic and well-crafted piece.

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