EFR - Reviews of Manhunt

Manhunt

Wed 1st – Mon 27th August 2018

reviews

Anna Marshall

at 09:21 on 5th Aug 2018

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Eggbox Theatre Company are the most authentic Fringe you could ask for: hilarious, simple, contemporary writing performed with flair, ingenuity and enough gusto to inflate a full pipe band. Manhunt doesn’t need special effects, elaborate masks, scene changes or even any more than two actors to create something special. Let's take it back to a simple stage, a table, two wine glasses and two twenty-something singletons despairing at their experiences of dating. Correction: their experiences of the 21st century versions of dating, where humans are expected to treat each other like works of art to objectify and critique, and physically approaching someone in a bar is an attitude “only dodgy prostitutes” would lower themselves to. Tinder is just “dating but for a generation with no shame”.

Emmeline Downie and Leo Reich are a double act that throw their lonely hearts onto the operating table to pull apart all the comedy they can salvage from their self-acclaimed tragic love lives. They make their audience roar with laughter from the get go in this hour of fun, which explores deep relationship misconceptions such as “It’s not a pet-name if a guy calls you bro”. Manhunt jumps around the world and across gender, time and age barriers. With their impressions and songs about one-night stands, this becomes a sketch show within a sketch, as no stereotypical opinion on navigating love is left unexposed to mockery. Their confidence as performers is clear, which allows them to be comfortable commanders of their stage, backed by an endlessly chortling audience, so that only they can carefully construct their own comic hurdles, for them to trip over with perfect slapstick timing.

This duo master the thinly disguised bitching of a book club, the pretentious artsy couples, Swedish noire detectives, and cold-hearted guppies, but their real weapon is their impressions of themselves. All adults struggling to accept their adulthood can delight in a bit of self-pity at the state of these two young adults, awkwardly flailing through life’s constant embarrassments. For Leo Reich, this is summed up as having all the sex appeal of an overgrown nine year old. It’s that stage of your life where, as Leo and Emm say, you’re technically allowed all the responsibility of owning a house, even if you never will afford one. Witnessing their mortification, through their guilty re-enactments, is worth every penny of a ticket price: as demonstrated by an audience unable to constrain their laughter whilst the time flew by.

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Claire Louise Richardson

at 10:35 on 5th Aug 2018

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Manhunt is a piece of new writing from Eggbox Comedy’s talented double act, Leo Reich and Emmeline Downie. In their hilarious sketch show, characters Emm and Leo are both searching for a boyfriend. Cleverly written and flawlessly executed, this piece simultaneously trivialises and analyses the fundamental landscape of the modern dating world. Rather than a hunt, this is perhaps a freeze-frame; pausing to build a caricature of the futility, desperation and frustration that these characters experience.

The characterisation and chemistry between the actors helps to push a loose, figurative story-line, preventing us from getting lost. The audience are always laughing with, not at the duo, while they are honestly exposed to the intricacies of their awkward traits and embarrassing encounters. Emma explains that her mum downloaded the dating app Tinder on her behalf, and Leo wades in with an ice breaker during his date, to discover if he ‘had any hobbits’. The characters work together to reveal each other’s embarrassing yet relatable dating history, Leo teasing that ‘she thinks Rizzle Kicks is a high fibre cereal!’ and daring to repeat that Emm’s boyfriend was only ever imaginary – ‘but he wasn’t your boyfriend??’. There is an occasional moment when the narrative loses an element of clarity, but we are always returned with the jolt of another original, perfectly-timed, and self-deprecating witticism.

The story progresses to maintain an appropriate balance of farcity and seriousness. We are given a piece about love and relationships which is neither too flippant, nor too heavy. This harmonious balance is provided by Emm’s moments of cutting sarcasm and Leo’s moments of sudden sentimentality. A balance is also maintained by the storyline, which scatters itself between various creative scenarios including the recreation of a Scandinavian murder mystery piece from Netflix, an impression of Cher, the watching of a football match and finally, a song about a one-night stand, which had a fantastic reaction from the audience. With effective lighting, tongue-in-cheek audience interaction and a script saturated by their witty lines, Manhunt has the perfect balance of silly and serious.

While the characters joke that it is a hoax to believe personality to be an aphrodisiac, and Leo might probe Emm to say ‘it’s your problem, you keep looking at men like they are people’, the show still manages to quite seriously unpick and remaster an interpretation of dating. It considers the importance of finding what we want in a relationship, and why our search might be futile. Perhaps this is as much of a search for personal identity as it is the search for a man.

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