The Fungasm Gameshow

Thu 3rd – Fri 25th August 2017

reviews

Laura Wilsmore

at 10:51 on 16th Aug 2017

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After I was given a pinbadge as my ticket, I sat down in the performance area of Paradise Palms. With such a small bar venue, I admit that I was not looking forward to the prospect of being called up to participate and tried to tuck myself to the side. However, whether you choose to sit at the front or back, the performers in ‘The Fungasm Gameshow’ are sure to get you involved, voluntarily or not. At times, their wacky combination of absurd twists of gameshow favourites was humorous. An appearance of ‘Sharkira’ (a Shakira and shark creation made with garbage bags), a blind date game with dinosaur masks and ‘Eel or No Eel’ created laughs. But, often, the humour of these gags quickly faded. They were simply too random, too unexplainable and not entirely supported by the performers. It is as if the cast have become tired of the ‘fungasm’ already.

Frequently, the pacing of the show proved to be its downfall. Instead of creating a witty mash-up of well-known quiz shows, each segment seemed to linger on for just too long to keep the energy maintained. The elaborate variations of the games meant that the explanation alone lost the audience before they had begun. To top it off, the overpowering music and booming microphones meant that it was often hard to hear the rules of a game even if you wanted to. When set-up was required back stage, the improvised fillers that hosts Ray D’Manche and Clora Mandervor undertook would often fall flat. One question asked was if we were ‘fans of mayo’ and we proceeded to cheer for our favourite condiments – not the most engaging audience participation in the world. One-liners from fellow audience members, however, had me in stitches; when asked if they enjoyed their time on stage, one contestant simply said “No.”

There is a fine line between thriving on the hiccups that come with this style of improvised, cabaret comedy or tripping up on them. Of course, in a show like this there are sure to be errors due to the unpredictable factors that control the show, namely the wheel’s selection of games and the audience members who willingly (or unwillingly) volunteer. Nevertheless, the performers need to be laughing on stage with the audience, not chuckling slyly to the side at a moment of confusion which inevitably draws attention to it in a negative light. The one stand-out performer who successfully crossed this line was the showgirl in the pairing of Flimsy and Flamsy. Her endless commitment, even when she made mistakes, ignited a sense of joy in the ‘Blind Date’ game as she exaggerated “and why” after asking every question. Whilst the energy of her fellow performers spiralled downwards, her smile was infectious and carried through to the end - something that you would expect to be fundamental to ‘fungasm’.

There were many areas of the show that felt lacklustre and utterly bizarre. However, if you are prepared to get involved and embrace the madness, you can have a good time. Nevertheless, this one o’clock in the afternoon cabaret was simply anti-climactic. The performers need to take some of the fire and drive from their audience to make sure ‘The Fungasm Gameshow’ is more Wheel of Fortune and less Pointless.

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John Livesey

at 11:57 on 16th Aug 2017

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Daytime Theatre isn’t the same as daytime TV. After just a few days here, audience-members learn to expect high caliber performance around the clock: moved at eleven, shocked at three, left in stitches by ten. Unfortunately, however, the only comparison there is for ‘Fungasm’ would be a knock-off game-show filling an empty slot on the ITV late-morning schedule. This is a clumsy, unoriginal and very unfunny piece of theatre.

The concept of this production is a pastiche of classic game-shows with a ‘wheel of games’ spun 5 or 6 times within the space of an hour, each-time landing on a new competition in which the audience must take part. As a squeamish audience member who dislikes any kind of audience interaction, ‘Fungasm’ was never going to have much appeal. However, what is even more startling is the fact that, after roping everyone in the room into action, the performers don’t seem to have any faculty in conjuring memorable moments or gags. In fact, they don’t even seem to care. Clora Mandervor, one of the two main hosts, spent much of the show stood lazily with one hand in her pocket, failing to radiate the energy a production like this requires. Just as guilty for the show’s failures is Ray D'Manche, her partner, who started badly by quoting the wrong date and proceeded to crack consistently appalling puns that grinded on the audience’s patience and nerves.

Worse still, none of the games that are played give the impression of being particularly well thought out. ‘Is it Mayo?’ is an interesting concept when first heard: guests have to guess whether a substance is the eponymous condiment by using all their senses excluding taste. Sound side-splitting? It’s not. The game is over within 2 minutes and proves so utterly ludicrous that there is hardly any enjoyment to be found in observing it. Eel or no Eel may cleverly employ play-on words, but again lacks any real traction, particularly given the snail’s pace at which it progresses. Phrasewave is just a glorified version of ‘Dingbats’. It is actually slightly depressing to have to watch these rituals, each of which one could think up on the spot, if not improve significantly with just a small boost in enthusiasm.

None of these problems are helped by the cast’s aggressive demands for everyone to get in on the action, starting by picking volunteers before resorting to just dragging people up to join them. It is as if by bringing us into the show, the actors think they will able to share the blame for what is clearly such an unimaginative performance. For the audience however, it is like being force-fed bad jokes. By the time everyone is dancing over upturned chairs and holding signs with morays on them, I was wishing I could blend into the wall or better, disappear.

There will be some people for whom ‘Fungasm’ is a good lunchtime break from the more sincere shows at the festival. For me it felt like a waste of time. One of the glamorous assistants is called Flimsy – a word which might be better attributed to the show as a whole. Whilst the pun in the title is a bold mission statement: to me, the lasting sensation this show leaves could not be further from orgasm. To be frank, I wish I’d stayed at home and watched Lorraine.

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