Horrids

Sun 16th – Mon 31st August 2015

reviews

Catherine Crook

at 09:30 on 21st Aug 2015

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The brainchild of the Nixon family, Horrids is a play about the life of very bored shop floor workers at a perfume counter in Horrids, a ‘totally made up department store’, not intended to sound like any particular famous London designer department store whatsoever. However, the play runs anything but smoothly, with brother and sister duo Luke and Livvy Nixon’s play descending into typical sibling one-upmanship when we realise is not a play, but rather a rehearsal for one, with comic results.

A family of aspiring (or in their mother’s case, successful) thespians, the constant battle between Livvy and Luke for the spotlight is watched over only by their high-strung mother, through a disembodied voice through a telephone, feared by dad and children alike. Livvy Nixon is an effortlessly commanding performer, mastering both bossy shop floor worker and snide older sister, and the natural relationship between her and brother Luke is aided by the fact they are both genuinely very funny, with great comic timing and contrasting onstage personas.

In Horrids, it is hard to tell where character ends and actor begins; particularly because of the genuine sibling relationship between the Nixons, a factor that lends the play an authenticity and distinctly familial brand of humour that cannot be manufactured. Dad Alan Nixon also makes a cameo as the play’s director in hilarious fashion, his decision to first appear almost halfway through the play a real moment of slapstick fun. Also in charge of music, lights, sound (and taking on the very necessary role of ‘dialogue coach’, due to the play’s forays into creating Australian customers), Alan has more than his fair share of theatrical roles too – you can see where the children get it from!

There is a cheesiness to the whole show as to be expected from a family-based show, such as dancing to Steps’ Tragedy and a vigorous round of dancing known as ‘finger Zumba’, but for the most part, the jokes are more in a laughing-with way than a laughing-at one. The jokes mix Livvy’s love of 90s pop (I did enjoy ‘I want to smell like common people’, as perfume-related humour goes) with Luke’s self-consciously intellectual love of ‘Pinter-esque pregnant pauses’, and while the musical numbers are all a little bit much, it’s not enough to distract from the overall atmosphere of a mix of high-brow and low-brow fun.

The show lacks the polish to make a real impact, but for a show at the Free Fringe, it is a fun way to spend an hour; with a family who clearly love performing, and whose enthusiasm is infectious. Overall, Horrids is a show about a family’s in-fighting for the spotlight in wonderfully wacky style; as an excellent premise with a sitcom feel, Horrids provides slighty cheesy family fun for absolutely no price tag.

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Isabella Goldstein

at 10:30 on 21st Aug 2015

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Horrids is a charming little treat, undoubtedly one of the gems at this year’s free fringe, it offers fun for all the family.

Artsy siblings Luke and Livvy are in fierce competition for centre stage – so much so that they can’t seem to stay in character long enough to finish a single scene. Eventually of course we realise we are not going to be watching a satire about department store Horrids (a clever little pun on Harrods). Rather, we are witnessing all the trials and tribulations of the performance’s ill-fated rehearsal. The length time it takes for this realisation to dawn is a testament to the standard of acting and brilliant teamwork displayed by this dynamic duo.

Their double act is transformed into a family affair by the introduction of their father, the show’s dismayed director. The seriousness with which he treats his role a brilliant source of comedy – I laughed out loud at the way the play’s program played into this – listing him as director, producer, lighting and sound engineer, fight choreographer, even dialect coach.

Their pushy, successful, theatre-mad parents set the scene for Luke and Livvy’s sibling rivalry, and they go on to absolutely nail the stereotypes surrounding sibling relationships. Luke is brilliant as the high minded, ambitious little brother, so convinced of his writerly genius that he has reserved seats in the audience for the press that he is certain will flock to his performance. Livvy is even better: bossy, exasperated, loud – the quintessential jealous big sister.

The quibbling between them is also hilariously true to reality. We recognise Luke’s sly tone as he threatens to expose his sister’s darkest secrets (we’ve all heard it in our brother’s voices), and Livvy’s catty criticism of the “pants” script represents the great pleasure which siblings derive from winding one another up. Luke and Livvy’s shared horror at their Dad’s attempts to be “down with the kids” was a magic moment of unity, giving rise to my favourite line of the show – “Dad…are you having a stroke?”

Accusations of cheesiness would not be unfounded - I definitely was not the only audience member cringing when Luke and Livvy began their dance routine to Steps’ Tragedy. At times the performance was also slightly let down by misjudged timings, as well as by deliveries which missed the mark.

Although this might not be sleekest performance (to call the set design amateur would be generous), Horrids ultimately overcomes the funding challenges faced by free theatre: a playful self-parody which is genuinely funny and watchable.

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