Cold Fronts and Hot Flushes: The Short Stories of Kevin Spacey

Fri 4th – Sat 19th August 2017

reviews

Claire Leibovich

at 11:28 on 17th Aug 2017

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‘Cold Fronts and Hot Flushes: The Short Stories of Kevin Spacey’ is a student show produced by Buttered Toast, and although the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, the actors likeable and some ‘short stories’ funny, it stays an amateurish play that is on the whole tedious.

Ollie reveals to his best friend Emily that he is a ghostwriter for Kevin Spacey and Alicia Keys and that the truth about his authorship has been leaked to the Internet. They start creating short stories, acting them out for the audience. This double level of fiction creates two clear dynamics that are unequally compelling. The first level, that of the conversation between Ollie and Emily, is frankly very dull. The script was boring and used everyday phrases that made me cringe. An example of their exchanges would for instance be ‘Should I read it ?’ (an email) followed by silence as Emily pulls the annoyingly banal face of a person who doesn’t know, doesn’t really care and, more than anything, does not want to take any responsabiliy. ‘Wait a bit maybeee ?’ Not captivating to say the least. This tiresome monotony is not helped by the set which consists of two chairs, a table and a laptop. It was like being stuck an hour in a depressing student room listening to an uninteresting and awkward conversation. The lighting could not be more basic with only one more or less agressive yellow colour, and there is no sound at all except two voice recordings at the beginning and the end. Twenty minutes after the show ended I had already forgotten the play.

Thankfully the second level of fiction created by the characters lifted our spirits a bit. The two actors tell random story after random story, and it was actually quite successful that those do not make much sense nor seem to have any other purpose than to amuse. For my favourite one I will only say that it involves air-breathing arthropods… The viewer’s full attention is required during these narratives because they are not only zany, but almost hysterically fast-paced. I have to admit that when Ollie read Kevin Spacey’s texts on his laptop my mind started to wander. Nonetheless, those enactements saved the play from being a complete flop and made the audience, me included, genuinely giggle.

The merriment is caused not only by the text, but also by its interpretation. The immense energy and enthusiasm of the actor and actress, especially of the actress, is contagious and makes you want to get up and join the fun. Emily’s role is impressively long and it is a marvel the actress managed to learn all the dialogue by heart. Hence her mistakes and hesitations are understandable, although they do reveal even further the amateurism of the production. All in all, ‘Cold Fronts and Hot Flushes: The Short Stories of Kevin Spacey’ did manage to squeeze some giggles out of me, and although the audience seemed to enjoy the show more than me, I would not say it is worth your time.

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Simona Ivicic

at 11:32 on 17th Aug 2017

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The premise of Andrew Shire’s ‘Cold Fronts and Hot Flushes: The Short Stories of Kevin Spacey’ is simple: A ghostwriter opens up to his best friend about his work on a book of short stories for Kevin Spacey which proves entertaining enough to create a whole play around. This very straightforward concept provides the structure for what we shall later see is a whirlwind of curiously bizarre and comical tales apparently written by the man himself, Kevin Spacey. It is unclear as to why Kevin Spacey is at the centre of the play, and leaves us as an audience curious of the thought process that went behind this decision.

The success of the play rests on the combination of brilliant acting and Shire’s own incredibly witty script that seems to really resonate with the audience, who laughed from beginning to end. These individually competent and impressive performers did justice to their roles as they excellently executed the fast pace of the script that seemed effortlessly sharp. The two bounced off of each other in the way only best friends can. The comedic timing of the play was perfect as they did not dwell on jokes for too long, nor did they entirely gloss over them - the jokes simply flowed seamlessly in the conversation between the two. In addition, the actors tease the audience with their awareness that they’re in a play and at times acknowledge our presence as an audience, which always gained a sort of knowing laugh of approval from the crowd.

The actors' individual ability to transform their body language, voice and accent to embody an entirely new persona was excellently done, as they managed to enact some of Spacey’s wildly ridiculous and chillingly serious sketches. Although some, such as the women’s institution and the blind date sketch, managed to gain a hearty laugh with their flashes of wit and absurd comedy, others lacked the same sense of entertainment. They came across as random and just a bit odd; the jokes few and far apart. The basic premise of the show seemed like it would provide the opportunity for the sketches to be consistently belly achingly funny, but some seemed out of place and pointless as they did not contribute much, if anything, to the play. They without a doubt explore the theme of the unexpected, however, it is sometimes lost in how random the play actually is and there is a strong sense that there are definitely missed opportunities. It is the superb execution of the jokes and playful banter that save this play.

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