The Red Emerald: A Farce for the Colourblind

Mon 14th – Sat 26th August 2017

reviews

Adele Cooke

at 14:20 on 23rd Aug 2017

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Jackson Productions presents ‘The Red Emerald’, with modest success. This show is fine to watch, but neither original nor groundbreaking. The show’s description of “blisteringly funny” appears to be an overstatement, as “moderately adequate” may be more fitting. I left feeling neither impressed nor satisfied, as the show feels like an average piece of amateur drama, sadly both bland and trite.

The production is your standard farce, with larger than life characters, slapstick and a ludicrously impossible premise. In typical farcical fashion these five characters are in turn revealed to each be seeking the Red Emerald, contrary to the wealthy fronts they initially perform. This isn’t a particularly entertaining plot, and when cobbled together with mediocre acting produces a show of passable quality.

My prime criticism would be the target audience, as I felt the show would receive a better reception from an audience of children. If the language and marketing strategy were altered, this show would easily draw in twice the audience it did yesterday afternoon. For me, I find the performance to be quite dull at times, as jokes were re-hashed to the point of exhaustion . Other jokes are dated, including references to Russel Brand amongst others, which detract from the quality of the comedy. Schrodinger’s cat is another point of laboured humour, as the show attempted to incorporate intellectual jokes, with little success. Instead, the basis of Schrodinger’s analogy is laid out before the audience many a time, yielding few laughs. However, I did enjoy the use of voice overs as the cast banter and mouth along with the voices, which is at times amusing. Although, this is hardly ground breaking; I have seen this technique countless times at other Fringe performances. Yet some children in the audience seemed to chuckle as this was done frequently, again leading me to believe this show could have greater success with a different marketing strategy. Clearly this is a show the cast have worked hard to produce, and this should be commended, as many of the failings of the performance are due to poor choice of play rather than a lack of acting ability.

Overall this is a moderately well performed production of an average farce plot, which is neither highly entertaining nor revolutionary. These actors show promise and with a different script their talents could be much better showcased. I’m not asking for that hour of my life back, but I would like to be entertained, rather than just moderately amused.

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Jacob Pagano

at 14:57 on 23rd Aug 2017

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‘The Red Emerald: A Farce for the Colourblind’ takes the age-old lesson that an audience will forever be intrigued by a well-conceived mystery and reimagines it in a humorous and witty production. The show, at core, has a simple premise: its protagonist couple, Herr and Chloe Falkenstein, are suffering financial ruin, and Chloe (a butler dressed as a “maid”) seeks to steal a red emerald from Mrs. Fields, a “rich” woman whom Herr meets one day in a chance encounter. On the evening of the heist, another couple, the Fires, is planning to come over to the Falkenstein’s for what Herr conceedes is only a “three-person party.”

The production is both wonderfully random—small quibbles, like Herr Falkenstein’s inability to find his trousers or paraffin-soaked walls, create intermittent comic sketches—and, beneath this surface level, incredibly insightful. In one of the opening scenes, for example, Herr and Chloe appear to communicate via the voices of a radio projected onto the stage, making us wonder about the very nature of marital communication. Moreover, the trope of richness, and the absurd lengths to which our characters will go in order to create the appearance of richness, invites us to ask what wealth really means. ‘The Red Emerald’ is certainly well aware of modern modes of self-promotion and self-disguise.

The production is one of the most stylistically rich that I’ve seen at the Fringe, and small staging and audio details were beautifully curated: when Mrs. Fields enters Herr Falkenstein's house, for example, a bell rings perfectly on cue, and towards the production’s end the sounds of fire burning intermingle well with ambient lighting. These might appear like petty nuances, but they imbue the show with a strong sense of atmosphere that left me feeling as if I were at the cinema, or perhaps flipping through the pages of a Chekhov short story. Reginald Fire, and indeed the whole cast, likewise have a sort of literary swagger.

The production ultimately succeeds for its sheer charming-ness. The humor is pleasantly absurd and variegated; we encounter cats in boxes, recurring Putin motifs, and puns that have life or death consequences. And, with the same grace with which it began, the show concludes by offering us a moral lesson (“don’t steal”) and a reconciliation scene that, if you’re lucky, will hum and resonate into your evening.

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