Melissa Tutesigensi

at 10:04 on 11th Aug 2018

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I never thought I'd laugh so much at lizards, but when Derek Micthell and Kathy Maniura were on stage delivering their lizard conspiracy sketch, I found my shoulders shaking with laughter. ‘Witch Hunt’ certainly surprised me with its comedy. Former Oxford Revue members Alistair Inglis, Derek Mitchell and Kathy Maniura provided an hour of witty sketches that poked fun at the everyday truth that most of us are worried about. This show was a testament to the idea that humour is a remedy as Horse Play Productions provided a space for us to laugh instead of cry about the troubling political landscape of 2018 that is littered with misogyny, racism and populism. The audience were given permission to see the absurd comedy in the bleak.

When I reflect on why I found ‘Witch Hunt’ so funny, I keep returning to the truth behind so many of the sketches. Some of the characters that Inglis, Micthel and Maniura wore with each change of a wig may have been fictitious but were unfortunately all too real. The American mom, the fascist Milosz and the chauvinistic Tommy Neck were caricatures of the less desirable characteristics in contemporary society. ‘Witch Hunt’, whilst being wildly funny, was equally poignant and I got the sense that Horse Play Productions were certainly conveying a message with their production. This was more directly displayed in an exchange between the American mom and her gay daughter or Tommy Neck’s transformation from men’s activist to feminist revealing a real sense of sincerity. This was a comedy of truth and wit. The creativity and shrewdness in their gags kicked a punch each time and the content and delivery was pure gold.

But they didn’t just rely on witty jokes. It was clear from the beginning that the many ingredients of the production were carefully articulated, rehearsed and thought through. Not off the cuff jokes but clever writing, revealing the production’s attention to detail. Each sketch added to the overall story and was often book-ended with a pre-recorded sketch or an original song. Sound effects and lighting accentuated the impact of each sketch colouring it with a multi-sensory experience. I got the sense that a lot of thought and revision must have gone into the show and it was certainly worth it as they delivered a polished performance.

So if you want to cry with laughter, go and see ‘Witch Hunt’ at the Grassmarket Centre. You will not be disappointed.

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Emilia Andrews

at 10:44 on 11th Aug 2018

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Being put on so late at night, I felt that this show was sure to provide some light-hearted, comedic entertainment and so, beer in hand, I went in with high hopes. ‘Witch Hunt’ is a sketch comedy which follows the tales of three key characters, J.K. Rowling, Mary who is a member of the SNP, and Dawn Macintosh, the Bible loving American and “full blown mum”.

Derek Mitchell is particularly brilliant in his portrayal of a religious American mom struggling to come to terms with the concept of having a gay daughter. His character’s attempts at coming across as a “down and dirty sinner, just like you kids” provided humour when contrasted with her dedication to the Christian faith.

Meanwhile, the character of J.K. Rowling was the target of a satire which provided much entertainment. Depicted as a fake, chain smoking woman who doesn’t know how to look after the crying orphan left on her doorstep, Rowling is particularly ridiculed for her post-Harry Potter plot tweets and general worthiness; "I hereby proclaim that Filch is a Syrian Refugee” she proclaims at one point, which was delivered with such pretence and gusto that I was cracking up.

The political undertone of the show has potential to provide some thought-provoking satire, but the constant and at times confusing shifts between bizarre situations prevent it from making any definitive political statements. Constantly treading the fine line between its willingness to make political comments and just being entirely ridiculous, ‘Witch Hunt’ did seem a little lost sometimes. The emergence of the underground lizard people is unexpected and adds more confusion to the already disjointed plot, but certainly contributes a further layer of hilarity to the performance. Each time they came on stage with their lizard glasses, I fell into a side-splitting laughter.

What makes this show unique is that there are reoccurring characters between the sketches, with the three main characters constantly reappearing in the most unusual ways. By the time all of the characters come together on a plane to Australia, each reaching the climax of their individual struggles, I felt that I knew the characters pretty well. Mary, with her hidden masculinity, J.K. Rowling and her battle with a bathroom basilisk, and Dawn with her lesbian daughter all join together on their journey towards the other side of the world. The unlikely union of these very diverse characters creates an incredibly funny dynamic.

This random yet hilarious show is constantly packed with surprises. If you’re looking for a performance which will leave you laughing and with an unexpected desire to buy a pair of lizard people glasses, then this is the one for you.

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