Not The Horse

Sat 6th – Sat 27th August 2016

reviews

Coreen Grant

at 09:32 on 14th Aug 2016

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‘Not the Horse’ defies all expectations and proves to be characteristic of the best comedy the Fringe has to offer: ludicrously hilarious. The play follows three friends in £250,000 of debt as they carry out an absurd plan to pay it off. In a strange yet wonderful concoction of wannabe gangster crime and slapstick comedy, the cast of twelve men performed Mike Dickinson’s witty script with boundless energy, racing from such bizarre activities as unintentional theft, a collection of horse semen, and ketamine-induced hallucinations. Not for the faint-hearted, Dickinson’s production is loud, blunt, and aggressive, but needs to be so be as funny as it is.

The pacing of the production is at a near constant peak throughout, yet the skilled actors succeed in never letting the tempo drop. High tensions see spittle flying across the stage and raised voices are the norm. The tone is bawdy – do not bring your children to see this one – but rarely, if ever, lapses into gratuitous vulgarity. The acting in the production is superb, each actor throwing themselves wholeheartedly into their colourful portrayal. Although the characters include such caricatures as the dopey, stupid sidekick and exaggerated accents, these elements are handled expertly and stock characters are derided to the audience’s delight.

Audience interaction is also a highlight, with the actors venturing into the spectators for a more close-up experience. A fellow reviewer is practically sat on by Silk, the huge firearms dealer. The talent of the production team behind the stage also demands a special mention. Well-suited atmospheric music and coloured lighting create a rich ambience. Despite a bare, unadorned stage, the aesthetics are engagingly detailed: each group of characters has a unique style of costumes which matches their personalities to perfection. A particularly well thought-out tech moment is actor Callum Forbes’ mock epic speech of victory and honour, in which he is spotlighted in true Hollywood ridicule.

The play culminates in a crashing crescendo of the interlinked storylines, colliding in a four-way gun-point standoff: a memorable and satisfying close to what is a cleverly scripted and professional production. The audience cheer enthusiastically, commemorating a decidedly well-spent hour. Though the subject manner is droll and preposterous, a combination of Dickinson’s direction and the actors’ vivacity leaves an excitable and uplifted feeling at the close.

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Charlotte Thomas

at 13:54 on 14th Aug 2016

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Having had a rather long day, I was fairly concerned about what I was in for when I entered the venue for ‘Not the Horse’ – I know nothing about horseracing, betting or the politics thereof and was therefore rather worried that this comedy would go straight over my head. What followed, however, was an outrageously crude, hilarious romp of a performance in which I and the full-house audience were laughing out loud almost throughout.

The ridiculous plot follows three separate groups of men: a seedy, greasy group of Londoners (Tom Silverton, Freddie Johnson, Adam Nicholls); a truly skanky group of Irishmen (Niall Ross Hogan, Calen Griffin, Phil Bulman and Callum Forbes) and a hapless crew of Liverpuddlians (Nick Sheedy, Michael Hawkins and Warren Kettle.) I know this sounds like the set-up for a bad joke, but it is this sort of unashamedly brash sense of humour which drives the production. These men find themselves unexpectedly embroiled in a complex set of proceedings, all masterminded by the tall, dark and (very) handsome Silk (Daniel Carmichael), whom I actually had the pleasure of having hover over my lap for a few sweet moments. This results in a very complex, potentially confusing plot, however the cast deftly carriy the audience through with unfaltering energy and do not display a weak link among them.

It would be sinful to write this review without giving full praise to the technical designers and crew. Not only are the more standard exercises such as blackouts for scene changes perfectly executed, but there are some very special moments. Voiceovers permeate the piece in a way reminiscent of film montages, the snaps between groups in split scenes are beautifully executed and a particular highlight is the dream sequence after an unfortunate injection of ketamine. The soundtrack, also, is fantastic – perfect song choices stud the play at strategic points leaving the audience in stitches on many occasions. All told, this is one of the most impressive shows I have seen, from a technical standpoint.

The jokes come thick and fast, and credit must go to writer/director Mike Dickinson for a pacy, truly funny script which seems to blend unsubtle one liners and intelligent farcical plot lines almost seamlessly. Only on one or two occasions did I think a punchline a little too childish, or delivered in such a way that I did not catch them.

I would thorough(bred)ly recommend going to see this production – but I think maybe I’ll leave the jokes to the professionals.

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