Matchbox Theatre

Fri 5th – Sat 13th August 2016


Emily Cole

at 09:30 on 6th Aug 2016



Cian and Al, a dynamic duo ready to make their mark on the comedy scene of the Fringe, invited us all into their ‘Matchbox Theatre’, also known as the smallest theatre in the world: your imagination. Following Michael Frayn’s collection of mini-plays, Cian and Al ushered us in to their vast world of characters, monologues and sketches, gripping our attention in this fast-paced and, overall, entertaining performance.

There failed to be any sort of hesitation in settling in to their roles, which you may expect with such a vast array of characters. The range of accents successfully displayed by both performers was nothing short of impressive, from Cian’s Yoga-loving American to Al’s elderly, but nevertheless whimsical, Irish woman; it soon became a guessing game for me as to what exactly Cian’s true accent was. The authenticity and confidence with which they executed these scenes and characters consequently resulted in my complete surprise to find that they hadn’t written the sketches themselves.

Having asserted this, it became very apparent the talent and potential of both Cian and Al to interpret and produce such a well thought out performance. In particular, the pair utilise their own individuality – both physically and skillfully – to squeeze out as much comedic value of Michael Frayn’s scenarios as possible. From using a rough South London accent to portray the unimpressed and moaning member of a sophisticated theatre orchestra to having Al, an unlikely female heroine, as the uptight bickering wife part of a 600 year old tomb.

I use the term ‘potential’ intentionally, as these comedic gems of the performance are not wholly consistent throughout. Although I managed to maintain a smile for the duration of the piece, some scenes are strikingly better than others. The comedic values of some sketches were strongly overdone, in which the out-loud laughing received from the previous scene was extinguished in to the half-chuckle deserving of a mere dad-joke. A dragged out scene mocking a man who could not work out the silent function of his phone after delivering a speech on how to be the ‘master of your mobile’ begged all of us in the audience to shout “just switch it off and move on”.

However, despite these weaknesses, the energy and range between the two performers is certainly something worth watching for an easy-going and enjoyable afternoon entertainment. If the ‘Matchbox Theatre’ is your imagination, Cian and Al certainly take you on a wild and charming journey there.


Frances Ball

at 15:40 on 6th Aug 2016



This is a theatre piece all about theatre pieces, and you are an audience for a show in which being an audience is the main focus. It is typical Michael Frayn writing – the creator of 'Noises Off' wrote 'Matchbox Theatre', a collection of short sketches, in 2014. Like his earlier work it concentrates on the strange relationship between those on stage and those off it, in the strange environment that is the theatre.

There’s something disarming about being drawn into the production simply by being referred to as the audience, but the conceit is effective and made funny by the performing duo’s infectious energy. Al Duncan and Cian Llewellyn as a pair immediately draw you in by welcoming the crowd into the room with abundant energy, imploring you to keep your phone on, to make as much noise as you can – in short, to turn conventional theatre practice on it’s head. Llewellyn in particular has a very strong physicality in performance, using body language to comic effect, and both he and Duncan keep up energy through demandingly fast sketches. At times it feels as though the pace drops in the changeover between scenes, but this doesn’t damage the whole to any significant extent. In fact, one particular sketch centres on the shadowy ‘scene changer’ figure crucial to any production, and by bringing the technical workings of the show to the fore, Duncan and Llewellyn successfully manage Frayn’s metatheatrical style.

What really carries their performance is the way that they bring to life successive and starkly contrasting characters. Each different personality is delivered in voices that are recognisable as stereotypes of public figures, whether as a general ‘theatrical type’ or more specific – Duncan carries a decidedly David Attenborough tone almost as well as the man himself, and it makes the scene. Both performers, in a sketch that takes its cues from the idea of a centuries-old marriage and corresponding domestic disharmony, really hit their stride. At its best, the cast’s light touch with the audience and strong presence on stage give a highly enjoyable show, making the most of Frayn’s writing.

'Matchbox Theatre' feels like a collection of well characterised, well performed, sketches. The structure of the show has occasional jarring transitions that will almost certainly be smoothed out over the course of the run – both performers are extremely strong, and when there feels like a thread running through the show, they give a masterclass in sketch comedy.


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