The Murderous Philanthropist of Croydon Town

Mon 14th – Sat 19th August 2017

reviews

Nina Attridge

at 09:31 on 15th Aug 2017

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This combination of wit, slapstick and carefully honed musical talent is impossible not to enjoy. Polished it was not, with some musical numbers revealing the uncertainty of the performers in their debut of 'The Murderous Philanthropist' at the Fringe. Some jokes did not quite land and a Jekyll and Hyde-esque character did not come across with the clarity needed to work. However, with the volume of one-liner’s they delivered it would’ve been a miracle for them all to achieve belly-laughs, which most of them did quite wonderfully get. Any blunders were, if anything, an addition to the lovable bumbling (yes, even the 'Murderous Philanthropist' himself was bizarrely lovable) of the clueless characters. The high energy nature of the show meant that for every lost laugh, the following hysterics overpowered any awkward pauses. After the slightly cringe-inducing audience interaction of the opening, which I must admit lowered my expectations, the cleverness of the jokes, songs, and staging came as a pleasant surprise.

The storyline, while offering hints of Sweeney Todd, was original; and despite its 19th Century setting the style of humour and complete disregard of the fourth wall gave the experience a timeless feel. When the cast all came together in chorus the result was gloriously silly. They had you guffawing at the daftest of tomfoolery in the same breath as an embarrassingly delayed chuckle to impressively clever writing, and they had the musical ability to keep the fast pace entertaining and fresh. * Flora Wilson Brown gave us the hilariously naïve Isabella with reassuring confidence, and while the tricky Jackson/Johnson character sometimes came across a little clunky, the bulk of the time it was clear that Becca King, like the rest of the cast was comfortable in her role.

The dynamic between the cast was exciting to watch and with such compact staging their close relationship was undoubtedly necessary. No member of the cast ever truly fell out of the limelight (any risk of this Piano Man Alastair McNamara faced was quickly stopped in its tracks by his powerful vocals) and it was perhaps this constant battle for the limelight that meant momentum was never lost. This made up for any of the shortcomings that a student group will inevitably have. It oozed low-budget charm- the use of space and props, both limited resources, was admirable as they had clearly pre-empted where their weaknesses would lie and found ways to work these weaknesses to their advantage as endearing additions to the humour.

For such a young troupe to put together and execute such a charming and clever show is inspiring- but I wouldn’t rob them of the fact that regardless of their age and experience 'The Murderous Philanthropist of Croydon Town' holds its own amongst even veterans of the Fringe.

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Laura Wilsmore

at 11:37 on 15th Aug 2017

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From the moment the audience walk into ‘Intrepid Fools’ production, the company instantly begin to create a whimsical atmosphere. Isabella (Flora Wilson Brown) poked fun of an audience member’s hole-ridden jumper, stating that she would “mend it for ‘em” in a thick cockney accent. Once the lights go down, you cannot help but be charmed by the farcical nineteenth-century characters that they bring to life in this musical comedy. There were some awkward transitions and slightly unclear divisions between characters, but the overall production was joyous and full of life.

A stand out feature of the piece was the group’s ability to work in unison in an intimate space. The besotted bachelorettes surrounded the eerily suave Quincy (John Chisham), hanging off his every word by responding accordingly with sighs and cheers; balancing comedy with remarkable vocal harmonies. Repeatedly, the Piano Man (Alastair McNamara) both impresses and delights with the vocal flourishes that he performs in moments of tension. Later in the play, the harmonious soundscape in the depiction of a storm was complimented with subtle flashing lights (by Harry Tennison), a drum, and handfuls of blue confetti to add fun and farce into the scene. Some of the transitions in this scene were rather awkward, but the commitment by the ensemble to humorously depict such a dramatic scene change was striking.

Early on, there were, however, some difficulties in distinguishing the portrayals of the various characters and they did not reach their full comedic potential. The Piano Man quickly transitions between Isabella’s father, a priest and an older woman with a few simple props. The result was amusing, but some lines became lost and rushed, and did not allow the audience to fully enjoy the character transitions. Jackson and Johnson (Becca King) stunned with a bluesy solo song that clearly distinguished the two sides of her character in tone and tempo. However, in the dialogue this division was not always clear and it felt that the cast relied too heavily on the props and costume to create character.

Often, the cardboard cut-out props would add to the comedic value of the piece. Isabella’s interaction with a shooting star and her signature exclamatory ‘gasp’ were especially humorous. Her consistency in her portrayal of a charmingly naïve young woman was central to the success of the show, with her soft singing voice and exaggerated facial expressions. In addition, the frequent breaks in character from the Narrator (Bethan Lahive) helped move the plot along and kept the audience involved in the fun throughout; she declares that we should all “expose him [Quincey] in a fabulous musical number”. Bethan showed great versatility in her role as she also subtly delivered lines such as “No good husband acts like that”. This added a depth to the piece which should have been further emphasised.

Intrepid Fools have devised an exuberant, self-aware piece of theatre that is sure to delight all audiences. The odd shaky vocal or fumble with props will most probably be down to first show jitters. There are moments of comedic gold that show great promise, but they need to be given just a little bit more time to let the audience enjoy this pastiche of many well-known Victorian novels.

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