Tomás Ford: Craptacular!

Wed 2nd – Mon 28th August 2017

reviews

Kathryn Tann

at 09:40 on 6th Aug 2017

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Despite thinking we were prepared for something a little out of the ordinary when we arrived for ‘Craptacular’, there was no way we could have predicted what was actually in store. Frantic, noisy, and highly interactive, this show takes its captive audience through one man’s unique versions of some great (and not so great) pop music landmarks. Ford should be admired for his incredible enthusiasm and impressive capacity for crap music (though the occasional classic did make its way into the performance). With a costume change around every corner and a seemingly endless supply of ad lib remarks, it wasn’t long before the more reserved members of the audience (myself included) couldn’t help but relinquish to this man’s infectious energy. From ABBA to Village People, there were times when ‘Craptacular’ felt like some sort of farcical seated dance party – a summary which I think Ford would happily accept. An attempt to take his wacky performance with any sort of seriousness would be an instant mistake.

Backing the stage on both sides were two large projected screens, which throughout the show displayed some outrageous pre-recorded footage, mostly of Ford himself. The ‘artistically’ edited words and clips displayed often outdid their real-life counterpart in wittiness, but Ford’s bewildering personality gave us so much to focus on that it was only on occasion that they could be really appreciated. Lighting in this performance provides another source of bewilderment, with audience members often being asked to hold makeshift spotlights whilst our entertainer ‘sang’. It is worth mentioning that Ford’s voice shone through in parts and is clearly well trained, but he generally chose comedy over quality on this front, and often at the expense of our eardrums. Ford also kept in dialogue with the sound and lighting crew from start to finish, which not only added to the anything-goes-attitude of the piece, but also meant that any technical issues could be easily communicated and resolved without any negative impact on the performance.

At moments of ‘Craptacular’ I wasn’t quite sure what to think, nor whether I was really enjoying myself or not, but despite occasional misgivings I had a grin on my face and a chuckle in my stomach for more or less the entire show. And by the end, when we found ourselves stood on the steps of the Gilded Balloon entrance, surrounded by confused passers-by, this chuckle had at last given way to a whole-hearted cackle, though whether I was laughing with him, or at him (and how surreal the whole situation seemed to be) remains to be seen. Try as it may, the sensible voice in my head can’t seem to override the part of me which smiled through every minute of this ridiculous show. If you’re looking for questionable music and utter silliness, I recommend, but this is certainly not a show for the more introverted individuals amongst us.

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Helen Chatterton

at 13:53 on 6th Aug 2017

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Tomás Ford’s one man show ‘Craptacular!’ is hard to put into words, a bizarre fusion of karaoke, light show, and seated dance party which well and truly smashes the fourth wall. Whilst the production is undoubtedly absolutely bonkers, Ford has the audience in hysterics throughout, even if we are not always sure why we are laughing. The premise of the show centres around “crap” music, featuring musical hits such as Bay City Rollers’ ‘Bye Bye Baby’ and Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna give You Up’. To this, Ford parodies, mocks and wildly dances to. Ford even goes as far as to play along to one song on a plastic recorder, with questionable skill. Whilst it is easy to go into Ford’s show with an air of cynicism, somehow Ford sweeps this aside within minutes, and from there on the show gathers momentum as it progresses. Ford actively involvs everyone in the audience, whether or not they want him to, and gets even the most cynical audience members to crack a smile and participate.

Whoever once described Ford’s shows as akin to a hostage situation hit the nail on the head: audience participation is mandatory. There is nowhere safe to sit. From tartan handkerchief waving to becoming part of the lighting team, the experience was very much a communal activity. If you dislike dancing, stay away, as Ford has the audience dancing the YMCA, vogueing and participating in “twinklefingers” to the tune of ‘The Circle of Life’. Additionally, the audience was put on their best behaviour by Ford reprimanding (read: screaming at) members for folding their arms, yawning, and reminding another “masculinity is a prison”. What was also impressive about Ford was his consistently high energy levels, which saw him leaping over chairs, across the stage and later cajoling the audience outside to give a rendition of Enrique Iglesias’ ‘Hero’ to the general public, which the original audience was, of course, expected to join in with. The use of two projector screens added to the ludicrous nature of the production, featuring recordings of Ford gurning, singing along and fondling himself. However, whilst the scrolling text that sometimes featured was very funny in itself, some of the jokes are easy to miss; it would have been nice to see some of these jokes integrated into Ford’s dialogue.

The madness of the show is aided by Ford’s frequent, ridiculous costume changes. Reportedly designed by his mother, these included a tartan onesie, Irish dancing costume and 90s bomber jacket, which is eventually stripped back to reveal a “T for Tomás” shaven into Ford’s chest hair. Ford is an evidently talented man, a good singer when not cracking jokes, with a good sense of comedic timing. The show was universally appealing, even when references were unfamiliar. For anyone with any sense of social anxiety, this is definitely not the show for you, but is otherwise bound to leave you feeling elated, if slightly perplexed.

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