That's So GCSE

Fri 3rd – Sat 18th August 2018

reviews

Tamzin Kerslake

at 09:14 on 14th Aug 2018

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Good Bad Ideas are a five-piece student ensemble group from Warwick University, who have brought their sketch show ‘That’s so GCSE’ to the Fringe. Clad in black loose-fitting clothes, the team warm up as their audience arrives with games such as ‘Jogging Through the Jungle’, ‘Raisin Face, Pumpkin Face’ and, of course the classic, ‘Rubber Chicken’.

This show’s concept is clear: recreate GCSE drama. It is a parody that hits the spot and is scarily relatable to those who have undergone the emotionally harrowing task of dancing to Everybody Hurts. With missed lighting cues, lost props and noisy blackouts, this is a very well thought out show that had the audience, the majority of whom were young drama students, howling with laughter. Although some of the gags were repeated slightly too much to keep their appeal – such as the noisy clunking of chairs between each blackout - this was a funny and light show (despite their search for deeper convoluted meanings through hot-seating).

The improvised sketches were a highlight; the expositional back-stories were humorous, and the dead-pan delivery was spot on. Dancing, masks, and a guitar also made appearances and were used to great effect. Yet it was the attention to detail that really lifted the performance. Fidgeting whilst standing in neutral and some dodgy exaggerated background mime work really gave this performance, paradoxically, a well rounded and polished boost.

This piece does exactly what it is meant to do; it is a wonderful memento hearkening back to the days when we all thought we were the next Brecht with our circles of conscious thought. The fringe is the ideal performance spot for such a piece, as the audience were filled with people who had all shared similar experiences. This is a short and funny performance with a brilliantly executed concept. Attention to detail and spot-on caricatures of themselves makes this well worth the watch for anyone who has been through a similar time in their lives. A* all round.

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Siobhan Stack-Maddox

at 12:05 on 14th Aug 2018

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You can almost hear a drawling teenage voice elongating the "o" of the "so" in 'That's So GCSE'. As the audience enters, the cast are already on the stage, taking their warm-up very seriously indeed. All dressed in stage blacks (of course) they squabble as they perform exercises I remember doing in stage school drama classes myself. The tone of the show is established before it has even begun, perfectly capturing the navel-gazing pretentiousness of teenage thespians.

With secondary school drama classes still a not-too-distant memory in my mind, this show is painfully accurate in its obvious profundity. Organised as a series of sketches demonstrating 'deep' dichotomous themes like "Love and Hate" and "Success and Failure", with plenty of interpretative dance in between, the show demonstrates the self-involved pubescent belief that "we've all got this really complex backstory", as one cast member puts it.

It's the attention to detail which makes the show: the eye lines either fixed slightly too high or too intently on the audience, the very audible whispers and clattering chairs between sketches and the missed cues and terrible timing. It makes you laugh as well as cringe throughout. There's one wooden actor alongside four over-the-top ones, a live rendition of an Ed Sheeran song on an acoustic guitar and appalling attempts at American accents. Meanwhile, the boxes are ticked for every theatrical device on the mark scheme, from flashbacks and flash-forwards to combining audience engagement and improvisation.

While I'm not laughing out loud constantly, there's something in each scene which at least makes me smile as I recognise something I've definitely seen before in amateur theatre. The "Success and Failure" sketch is dragged out for a little too long before it reaches its punchline, but I appreciated the combination of in-your-face morality with "that political theatre" which is "everywhere, especially at the Fringe", as the cast muse afterwards.

It's not quite an A* performance, with room for improvement and sharpening up. Nevertheless, it's a strong debut show from the University of Warwick's 'Good Bad Ideas', achieving some light-hearted laughs through a refreshingly self-deprecating concept.

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