Men With Coconuts

Sat 5th – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

Jessica Lord

at 02:33 on 11th Aug 2017

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'Men with Coconuts': Free is the new FABULOUS.

Four men, three chairs, two instruments, and one coconut. A recipe for comic gold! Who knew?

Forget everything you thought you knew about improvisation. Forget awkward pauses, forced repetition and dodgy plot lines. Get ready to see your wildest dreams projected onto stage, as 'Men with Coconuts' offers you the chance to see, quite literally, whatever you like.

In the space of just an hour, 'Men with Coconuts' managed to present no less than four sublime sketches - completely based on the audience’s comments and suggestions. They somehow worked with every single idea thrown at them, and yet still produced high quality pieces of theatre.

We were treated to an intense (yet slightly twisted) love story between a pig and a butcher, watched as Will Naameh struggled to learn of the bizarre things that the audience wanted him to say, enjoyed a rendition of how audience members ‘Cliff and Caroline’ met and the show came to its conclusion with a twenty minute musical, entitled ‘Drag Queen Wars’. It was truly phenomenal, seamless theatre - and I was blown away with how effortlessly hilarious every sketch was.

The chemistry between the four men was evident, and this is why the sketches were all so successful. The timing, and the way in which they all bounced off each other, made me feel totally at ease, as I laughed both with them and at them. It takes a true connection between a group of people to make someone produce the phrase ‘limited edition curly wurly trombone’ (suggested by an audience member - the minds of visitors to the fringe never cease to amaze me….).

Before concluding, I’d like to give a special mention to pianist Colin Bramwell. His ability to perfectly produce music which aligned with the current scene was just something else. I particularly enjoyed the background music during the recreation of ‘Cliff and Caroline’s’ first date. It just fitted so elegantly with the acting. (And Will Naameh was a hilariously poor waiter - even forgetting to return to take the order…). Anyway, returning to Bramwell, his natural musicality is quite simply, something to behold. For me personally, the music held the sketches together, and gave it that extra little polish and professionalism, which is so difficult to achieve in this genre.

In conclusion, I speak on behalf of the ‘Chicken of truth’ when I say that this production was simply brilliant. A true Fringe gem. Wonderful stuff.

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Charlie Stone

at 09:57 on 11th Aug 2017

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The name 'Men with Coconuts' seems arbitrary at first, but is merely a sign of the wonderful randomness that this improvised sketch show has to offer. Four bizarre and hysterical sketches constitute a production run entirely by audience choice; as we help to create a raucous atmosphere in La Belle Angèle.

A simple set – made up of just three chairs – and sparing use of lighting allow the creativity of the three actors, Will Naameh, Charles Hindley and Steve Worsley to flourish, helped throughout by Colin Bramwell on the piano. Improvised comedy is always a crowd-pleaser, and the choice to allow the audience to decide moods, characters, life stories and even a musical (entitled ‘Drag Queen Wars’ in this instance) does not disappoint. This last sketch, a twenty-minute array of songs whose lyrics came on the spot, was perfect in its mock-serious attitude and surprisingly competent singing.

This musical was the highlight of a show which allows the versatility and lightning reactions of its actors to be apparent at every moment. The story of a butcher and his pig told in the experimental Czech style followed immediately by English costume drama provoked hilarity among the spectators who could feel they had created a show of their own. In fact, some of the audience’s comments would get as many laughs as the actors on stage: asked for a situation that would never normally happen, one member yelled ‘the sun is burning!’ only to realise that this is in fact always the case.

Men with Coconuts sets such a high standard for itself in this first scene that the second, where Naameh has to guess an audience-created film title, seemed in comparison to lack comic creativity. However, this was mainly due to the latter end of the title being a ‘limited edition Curly Wurly trombone’, not the easiest object to act out. Rather than being a weak sketch, this merely showed the difficulty of the task of improvisation which Naameh, Hindley and Worsley perform so well.

Bramwell, too, is required to keep on his toes whilst playing the piano: finding a tune for Czech experimental is just as impressive as acting it. His playing provides a constant background to the show, and comes into its own during the scene of the musical. Indeed, if it weren’t for lines such as ‘let me be the bra around you’, one might have stopped laughing for a moment to appreciate the production’s genuine musical quality.

What makes this a must-see show is its obvious freshness and the sense that the actors enjoy themselves just as much as us. Men with Coconuts is one of the Fringe delights, easy on the eye and entertaining on the ear.

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