EFR - Reviews of Decaying with Grace

Decaying with Grace

Sat 8th – Sat 29th August 2015

reviews

Poppy McLean

at 09:52 on 14th Aug 2015

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A sketch show based on the apocalypse - it’s an intriguing concept, but one which it’s hard to believe FECCLES (the wisely-abbreviated Falmouth and Exeter Cornwall Campus Light Entertainment Society) exploited fully in their comedy offering for this year’s Fringe. The show did well to battle against an overly large venue and deafening air conditioning, but was ultimately held back by the simple fact that it just wasn’t very funny.

To use the cast’s own term, ‘laugh out loud’ moments were vanishingly rare (give or take the odd energetic exhalation) and increasingly tinged with an edge of desperate relief. The sketches were well varied, though, and a few of them really did strike a chord with the audience: the humdrum cares of the characters (the football results, step-parent strife) were often artfully and amusingly contrasted with their more immediate apocalyptic concerns, and the cast actually capitalised admirably on the small size of their audience in an enjoyable - and not overlong – session of audience interaction.

The show’s apparent genre-confusion also didn’t help its impact: the occasional lengthy philosophical musings on death, the properties of sound or the molecular disintegration of the earth felt somewhat out of place to an audience gasping for a laugh. This sort of mixed-mood writing does of course have the potential to be extremely affecting, but it was difficult to focus on a script which for long periods of time just seemed to wander in mellow conversation, gingerly meandering between humour and deadpan rumination, and, as a result, capitalising little on either.

One actor did a great amount to redeem the show: Ollie Gibb, the society’s Vice President, stood out for his admirable eye for character comedy, drawing laughs as a side-stepping politician, and as the cheery ‘recreations officer’ for a group of radiation survivors: his exasperated attempts to get them into the spirit of his planned amateur dramatics, as his cast gradually expire around his feet, were extremely funny, and, for me, were by far the highlight of the evening. This sketch also allowed the rest of the cast to showcase their acting skills, which were impressive – I would have loved to see them performing more serious drama. Patrick Liddle also caught the eye for his reflective monologue towards the end of the show, and proved accomplished at fast-paced comic delivery elsewhere.

Decaying with Grace certainly has a few good moments, but I hope the cast will forgive me for concluding that its script needs a significant degree of energising before it can hope to pull in the crowds in such a comedic hotbed as the Fringe.

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Dominic Spirra

at 09:54 on 14th Aug 2015

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“Maybe I'm dead…” I wonder, as I look round the back room of Sportster's Bar, where Decaying with Grace, the latest sketch show offering from Falmouth and Exeter Cornwall Campus Light Entertainment Society (FECCLES for short), is being performed. The venue is in an empty dance club and the rows of unoccupied steel chairs look somewhat futuristic under the UV glare. “Maybe no one is sitting in the chairs because everyone… died?” I think. The surrounding scene is like some weird purgatory, reminiscent of a dream sequence from The Sopranos, with a loud ventilator humming somewhere behind me.

Decaying With Grace opens with the address “what would you do if you knew the world was going to end?” and closes with a touching scene, a lone character on stage, isolated in the total darkness of a post-apocalyptic world with nothing but a mirror and a temperamental torch that eventually runs out. The intervening sketches are diverse and amusing at their best and somewhat harrowing at their worst.

The show is particularly entertaining when the setting is utilised by the performance. A scene where God, enveloped in darkness, shouts down at a modern everyman, Noah, from the DJ booth was a highlight, with retorts such as “our father, who art in Heaven, broken be thy nose” and “yeah, well smite me, you wanker” earning a collective laugh from the somewhat depleted day time audience.

At times the show struggled to maintain a comic force and potentially amusing scenes became jolting. One particular sketch, in which a bunker of survivors poisoned by radiation put on a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream descended into an animal chaos as the cast dies one by one, some members eating the script and others eating each other leaving the audience in a sort of stunned stupor.

Although the inevitable comparison of Decaying With Grace with some of its more professional counterparts is a juxtaposition of sorts, the show is free and definitely worth the time. Though this may not have been the intention of the ‘laugh out loud’ show, I was left with a poignant feeling of emptiness as I left the club and entered the Edinburgh afternoon sun, still a little convinced that I might be dead…

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