Spoiler Alert

Mon 13th – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Lottie Hayton

at 08:35 on 16th Aug 2018

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The Amidships Theatre Company’s 'Spoiler Alert' began strong. The central premise is refreshingly original: a couple, Maddie and Jim, face a new challenge in their relationship, with Maddie’s development of prophetic abilities. With convincing acting from all the cast, the characters were impressively drawn and lines were delivered well for maximum effect, earning laughs from the beginning.

The idea offered the chance for a series of well-connected sketches as Maddie attended 'Prophetics anonymous', or in her job as a primary school teacher. In one scene, watching television as a couple was revealed to be impossible as Maddie watched ahead. In another we saw Maddie’s consternation at the futures she had foreseen for each of the children: one would become a Daily Mail editor, another a murderer. Jack, she told us, was whiteboard monitor and she suspected “he might have peaked.” The comedic potential of the "power of prophecy" was well considered. It did feel, however, as if every possible sketch idea that could be squeezed out of the notion had been. As 'Spoiler Alert' went on the idea seemed more and more forced.

The quirky premise did allow for a reinterpretation of some of the traditional characters and tropes in student comedy. But this couldn't fully refresh such overdone characters as the Gap Year social justice warrior, who appeared in the rather strange setting of 'Prophetics Anonymous'. While this figure might be funny in a university setting, it seemed trite and predictable when put in front of the more varied audiences at the Fringe.

There were some interesting twists in the plot towards the end, but Maddie’s exposition of the changing nature of her visions – that nobody could really predict the future – was in danger of pushing this piece out of the realms of average comedy, and into schmaltzy sentimentalism.

Even without Maddie’s foresight it was not hard for the audience to guess what would happen next. Not entirely the fault of the production, the show was made even harder to follow by the seating being all on the same level. It made it even more difficult to concentrate on the last fifteen minutes when the back three rows could barely see the actors on stage. The insertion of some new themes and cutting the length might have made 'Spoiler Alert', which started with potential, less boringly predictable.

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Alannah Taylor

at 12:08 on 16th Aug 2018

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'Spoiler Alert', a new comedy from the Amidships Theatre Company, is an enjoyable enough performance with a few quite clever and funny moments. The story centres around a young couple who are struggling because Maddie (Sophie Atherton) has begun to see into the future, and Jim (Alex Franklin) has begun to forget her name (it’s Maddie). This takes them to some interesting places: from examining the futility of living a life where everything feels predetermined, to Maddie adjusting to her new place in the underground ‘prophetic community’, to the awkward juxtaposition between one partner who can’t stop leaping ahead in time and another who can barely remember yesterday.

However I felt that a lot of the great ideas and jokes suffered from their overemphasis, over-explanation and over-repetition. I struggled to find the first few minutes amusing as they were mostly bogged down with gallows humour about Maddie foreseeing everyone’s modes of death. This part became a bit pantomime-esque.

As the piece progressed, the ‘prophetic community’ was variously used as a metaphor for the LGBTQ+ community, people with invisible illnesses, addiction recovery support groups and other sorts of minority groups. Some good jokes about the foibles of identity politics came out of this in places, at other times it seemed like a sketchy mismatch of somewhat unjust comparisons. It was slightly unclear what they were intending to achieve: a light-hearted poke at the extremities of political correctness, or a patronising mockery of underrepresented groups campaigning for their rights.

A particularly poignant moment, however, was when Jim protests that Maddie’s prophetic condition has put a lot of stress on him, as an explanation for some of his own misdemeanours. The exasperation on her face says it all. This episode was well staged, and kept subtle enough to be very effective.

More successful than the identity politics content was the ‘prophetic’ side of things. In Maddie’s job as a primary school teacher, she can’t help but see ahead into her pupils’ futures, which leads to some disastrous nihilism. This was thought-provoking, and got a lot of well-deserved laughs. I especially liked the consideration of how these futures would be shaped. The venture into the question of whether our futures are our own to decide upon was very well achieved and not too overstated, with the ideas and actions being allowed to speak for themselves more.

Cast-wise, I was especially impressed with Henry Phillips in his performances of Rob, Jack and Steve.

In all, I would call this an entertaining production with some great ideas which are developed well, and other great ideas which are developed badly. The style was really not to my personal taste, but it was consistent throughout. Go and see this for a light-hearted comedy with lots of youthful energy.

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