Swing By Around 8

Sun 9th – Tue 18th August 2015

reviews

Isabella Goldstein

at 11:35 on 19th Aug 2015

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This punny play is a quintessentially British brand of humour. Capturing the unique spirit of the BBC comedy sitcom – Fourth Wall Theatre offer up a witty, well-observed and brilliantly delivered performance.

Matt and Katherine try to reignite their flailing relationship with a somewhat unconventional dinner party, the result of which is a mix-up of epic proportions. The performance is very much a classic comedy, structured around misunderstanding and packed with innuendos and awkward silences, as well as one very unfortunate case of mistaken identity.

Jessica Bray’s fabulously dry writing is insightful, consistently drawing attention to the ridiculousness of the English obsession with etiquette. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Matt (Russel Lamb) fuss over the table pieces and folds of the serviettes, and one of the play’s funniest moments was Katherine’s (Annie Davidson) horrified whisper of “what the fuck is this?!” on discovery of his misguided efforts.

This is just one example of how the play makes the two couples’ domestic squabbles the central foundation of humour. With a lesser cast this could have fallen flat, but superbly perceptive performances all around highlight a series of stereotypes which are subtle and true to life, deserving of the genuine laughs which they provoked.

The hopelessly conceited Amelia (Eliza Cummings - Cove) is the ultimate parody of middle class self-importance. She can barely mask her distain for partner Elliot’s (Jack Fenwick) smarmy and inappropriate jokes. He appears to resent her in equal measure, flirting away with Katherine whilst regarding his girlfriend with disapproval. They are THAT couple, you know, the two that secretly hate each other.

Matt and Katherine are typical yuppies - preoccupied by niceties such as iTunes playlists, wireless speakers and table arrangements. Watching them attempt to navigate a situation like swinging (in which they are hopelessly out of their depth) would be funny in itself, however, their neurotic refusal to engage in any form of direct communication imbues the action with a marvellous comic tension. This is brilliantly highlighted by Katherine and Matt’s anxious whispered conferences in the hallway, which gives rise to some of the play’s funniest one liners.

The jokes were sometimes fairly predictable and it was often fairly easy spot where the scenarios were headed. The performance failed to gain as many laughs as I expected. I suspect this is linked to the fact that, whilst the show’s parody of stereotype was undoubtedly well delivered, its particular brand of humour was often stereotypical (and fairly clichéd) in itself.

Swing by Around 8 is nonetheless thoroughly watchable. The brilliant comic climax of the show is a prime example of how proficiently it balances key issues of timing and pace. Relatable and packed with memorable moments – it’s worth swinging by C nova to catch this pithy performance.

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Chloe St George

at 12:23 on 19th Aug 2015

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The main set up of the show is delightfully original and hideously awkward in equal measure. Pretentious divorcee Amelia and her sickening flirt of a boyfriend, Elliott, have been invited for dinner with Matt and Katherine, a couple whose spark appears to have been lost at some point in their nine year relationship. The two couples have never met, though they are connected by a mutual friend Susie, as well as by the sordid elephant in the room, which drives the plot and humour of the show.

For the most part, the play was very well executed by an able and confident student cast. Where the awkwardness was most successfully humorous, it was due to the cast’s great comic timing. Occasionally, however, actors became so invested in their portrayal of awkwardness that it seemed excessive in the context. Eliza Cummings-Cove, as Amelia, was sensitive to a role that could so easily be overdone, and as a result grew steadily more hilarious as wine flowed and the play progressed. Annie Dawson’s ‘Katherine’ was perhaps the most consistent performance, and the one which best handled the play’s brief transitions into the more emotional intercourses. Other actors were weaker when straying from their comedy-based comfort zones.

The script is varied; outstandingly hilarious punchlines are thankfully fairly frequent and there is a littering of the sorts of puns and innuendoes that I expect will delight lovers of ‘The Great British Bake Off’. Yet at several points it feels as if the jokes have been left to run on a couple of lines too long, losing their effect slightly.

The same may be said of the pacing. There were some thoughtful moments, including one in which focus shifted back and forth between two simultaneous conversations, which helped to keep the energy of the performance high, and carrying the humour with it. A game of ‘Never Have I Ever’ on the other hand, dragged somewhat despite some funny lines.

Perhaps this is missing the point – the performance could have been more polished, but it was still highly enjoyable. This show is not groundbreaking, but no doubt makes for a worthwhile, light-hearted evening.

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