EFR - Reviews of Parish Fête-ality: A Game of Scones

Parish Fête-ality: A Game of Scones

Mon 8th – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Sebastian Ng

at 10:53 on 12th Aug 2016

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A light-hearted comedy that seems hellbent in making its plot as convoluted as possible, aided by its parade of upwards of twenty characters within its running time. As if that is not challenging enough, the cast numbers just five. Set in the surreal village of Jowlhurst, subplots run amok around a central plot featuring a ridiculously ambitious vicar plotting to destroy the aristocratic Larks family and decimate the village authorities in an inexplicable quest for power.

Not having seen a single episode of 'Game of Thrones', I am oblivious to many of the in-jokes, though I did catch the disproportionate incidence of the word ‘stark’, and the deliberate naming of a character just so that someone could say ‘de Winter is coming’. Oddly enough, despite the title I didn’t register the teatime-based puns until the end of the second act. To some extent that is the result of the play wantonly reaching for any available theme or reference within sight in its eagerness to drive up its parody-per-minute rate, including GoT, idyllic pastoralism, something about the National Trust, naughty sexual innuendo, religion, a Linkin Park joke that did not compute for me until hours later ... and then some. Ultimately, there is too much plot and too many characters for the mind to grasp what is going on and who is doing what at any given scene, so the jokes only work if they are self-contained, which not all of them are.

Obviously in a play where every actor has to take on multiple roles (actor Ellis J. Wells cycles between four in just the first fifteen minutes), it is crucial that the actors are able to signal to the audience that they have in fact switched into another character. It would have been helpful if the rules of the play had been indicated at the beginning; after the first scene change it took me nearly five minutes to ascertain that I am in fact seeing a different set of characters, rather than the same set of characters in different clothes, which could have been easily accomplished with an injudicious but expedient use of highly expositional dialogue, which the play is not above employing elsewhere (’Timothy, as the head of the National Trust…').

Joshua Phillips’s performance is the most impressive among the cast. He possesses the best comedic timing and is the clearest in switching characters, and all of his characters seem more alive compared to the others. His Machiavellian vicar is genuinely charismatic, and convincingly persuasive in inducing others to join in his dastardly plans; at one point he delivers the classic villain’s world domination speech with the awesome fervour of a hellfire-and-brimstone sermon, and it was captivating.

A lightly entertaining comedy with hit-and-miss punny humour. Just make sure your brain capacity is prepared to juggle the plethora of zany characters and their wildly tangential motivations.

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Charlotte Thomas

at 10:57 on 12th Aug 2016

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Tobacco Tea Theatre Company’s new play, ‘Parish Fete-ality’ (by Christopher Cutting), follows the ambitious priest Lionel Tithing (Joshua Phillips) as he attempts to gain ultimate power in the parish. What follows is a brash, brassy comedy full of treats for fans of the almost-titular 'Game of Thrones'.

The set is minimal to the point of non-existent, the only pieces being a few plastic chairs. Everything else is signified by a costume change by the actors, who are multi-roling numerous parts. This is a simple but effective signifier for the audience as to where the play is and who we are watching, and works perfectly with the style of the piece as it is.

The five-person cast should be heartily commended for their fantastic efforts playing multiple characters. Their hammed-up characteristics fit very well with the unapologetically farcical nature of the play and makes it very clear who was who. I especially enjoyed the performance of Ellis J. Wells as Anthony Larks, the camp, over-sexed and ever-so-refined member of the parish elite. Wells commands the stage with ease and his confidence in the role invariably draws the eye towards him in any given scene. Having said this, characterisation across the board is strong and the comic timing is broadly effective.

The play itself is funny, very funny in places, but I feel like I would have been totally lost if I did not understand the myriad 'Game of Thrones' references. Having said this, it may be unfair to criticise the play on this point – after all, the title makes it fairly obvious that the franchise will play a pretty important role in the show. However, sometimes the comedy not directly related to 'Game of Thrones' is a bit lazy, and I found my mind wandering on a couple of occasions. The plot is enjoyable, however the proceedings seem to get out of hand at points, with the result that the denouement of the play comes rather abruptly.

All in all, if you want a show where you can just sit-back and let some loud comedy wash over you, this is the play to go for. Not ground-breaking, but it does not have to be and I left having had a good laugh.

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