EFR - Reviews of BAGMAN

BAGMAN

Wed 19th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Llewelyn Hopwood

at 10:16 on 26th Aug 2015

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Have you ever thought of how wondrous and remarkable bags are? No? Well, don’t worry – nothing will change in this regard after watching the one-man show, Bagman with Brendan Murphy. However, you will see them as treasure chests of opportunities for hilarious comedy.

In an hour that tickles and baffles, Murphy’s character, ‘Bagman’, takes the audience on an adventure of discovery and learning in his ‘bag tutorial’ in a cloakroom. The originality and creativity of this concept is impressive in itself, and luckily the content mirrors this, but isn’t always side-splitting stuff. The idea allowed such charming routines as raffle-ticketed audience participation, and a rummage into the abandoned bags of the cloakroom that allows Murphy to present a myriad of different characters who all have some praiseworthy characteristics.

The strange, secretive tone of the whole thing is set up to begin with by the tongue-in-cheek, unnerving 2nd person narration that gives the background of the idea on a fluid and funny format. The four characters, as well as Bagman himself, clearly demonstrate that Brendan Murphy is a talented, flexible actor, and in fact, most of the time, his bizarre facial expression with piercing eyes, dancing eyebrows and a malleable mouth is enough to slap a smile on a spectator’s face.

There is somewhat of a downward trajectory to the strength of the characters that we meet, because of the opening hilarity of the comically trivial self-help plan, ‘Ted Moohan’s 3 step plan for a fitter, better happier you’. This is a character that’s a million miles away from the Bagman that we meet to begin with, proving Murphy’s talent. A particularly funny moment comes as Murphy mimics the ‘Live at the Apollo stance’.

Bob Burban, an unhinged children’s story teller, is a character that needs some work as he loses the audience somewhat and the show becomes a little slow. Nevertheless, there is potential in some of the material, for example the Math song and the ‘one night in Devon’ disco number.

The last two characters, a Björk that’s grown old and insane, and some sort of green Edward Scissorhands (the German children’s literature character, ‘Struwwelpeter’), only work due to the sheer absurdity of this section that brings the show to its end.

But this is not some chaotic character comedy that doesn’t know where it’s going, for there is clear professionalism in the narrated ending and the transition between each character, which is a fluid, well-thought-out musical interlude as Murphy prepares and dramatically morphs into the next bag’s previous owner. Brendan Murphy is a very funny man with clear grasp of character-based comedy.

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Josie Finlay

at 10:35 on 26th Aug 2015

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Why am I sitting in a dark room amongst a cluster of people all chanting ‘BAGS. BAGS. BAGS.’? I don’t know how it happened but I think we might have become a cloakroom cult. Midnight does weird things to people, especially when those people are in a small theatre in the company of Brendan Murphy – aka the Bagman – who welcomes us into his playground, the cloakroom, for a ‘bag tutorial’. Murphy inhabits his dark, intimate domain with a mad grin, skipping around the stage in an erratic, absurd bag-themed cabaret.

The premise of the piece is original – the cloakroom acts as a framework for Murphy to perform character sketches, impersonating a series of former owners of the bags that have been left behind. Among them are a highly-strung, moustachioed motivational speaker and a version of Björk whose ‘Icelandic’ accent touches on everything from Birmingham to Borat. Towards the end it all explodes into a surreal chaos of dress-up, singing, and audience participation that involves Murphy actually putting members of the audience into bags. Murphy’s impersonations aren’t always hilarious, but they’re fun to watch – the more bizarre the better in his weird claustrophobic den. Murphy is always full of energy and seems to be having the time of his life with a genuine and unique sense of comic timing, becoming especially funny when he ad-libs with the audience.

It’s hard to tell how much of the show is scripted because it’s just so mad you can’t imagine anyone writing it. The three characters are completely random, unlinked by anything except where they chose to store their bags one evening, but I suppose that’s the joy of the cloakroom – you never know what sort of bag you will find in there, or who it belongs to. (What am I talking about?! I’m becoming cloakroom obsessed!)

Bagman’s ‘tutorial’ offers astute observations on life in a cloakroom as well as an array of fabulous bag puns. While some of the impersonations drag on a little bit and fail to leave me in stitches of laughter, it’s entertaining to follow the weird twists and turns of Murphy’s imagination, which deals with everything from papooses to prejudice towards Geoffrey Chaucer. If you’re after a bit of strange and surreal comedy late one night, consider hitting up the Bagman before you hit the sack.

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