Bad Habits

Tue 15th – Sat 26th August 2017

reviews

Claire Leibovich

at 10:57 on 18th Aug 2017

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1725, a convent, saucy nuns and a mysterious young girl. These are the components of Ella Godfrey and Simon West’s delightful play ‘Bad Habits’. The storyline is brilliant, the text witty and the actors are good.

I do not know which exact pieces of literature the writers were inspired by, but their plot will undoubtedly make you reminiscent of countless books, plays and films. It mainly made me think of works by Cervantes, Marivaux and Stendhal: there is a light-hearted romantic thread, role-playing and plot twists. The accumulation of these at the denouement becomes farcical and absurd as if the authors were mocking the naivety of this genre. Whether this self-deprecating element was intended or not, it displayed a refreshing sense of humour and healthy self-criticism. In a way, what made this play so charming was that no one seems to make those kinds of stories anymore. However, the idea was not to copy a stereotypical eighteenth-century story; indeed that would have been ridiculous. The naive romantic story was intertwined with a great deal of comedy. The idea of the characters coming together in a convent lead to the comical gold mine of the irreverent nuns. Sexual innuendo was almost never awkward and hit the target. I also enjoyed the cheekiness with the audience. I probably laughed the most at the caricatures of the people of Edinburgh (‘imbreds’) and London.

The success of the show is due mainly to two elements: a strong text and on the whole convincing actors. It would be hard to tell exactly what made the writing harmonious and pleasurable, but my general impression was that the structure of the play had been well planned out and the language carefully polished. What contributed greatly to achieving the comedy was that the actors did not overact. They did not stress the jokes as if cueing the audience to laugh. Hugo (Simon West) did get a bit repetitive but this may be more the fault of his stereotypical character than the actor’s ability. The dialogues between him and the Vicar when they share their different viewpoints on monogamy could also have been reduced to one. The violinist, present on stage, helped to reinforce the period touch, and it was also enjoyable to have an actual musician on stage for once rather than just recordings of music.

All in all, ‘Bad habits’ is definitely worth seeing. The writers, actors and production team are a talented bunch and they deserve more attention than they are getting.

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Nina Attridge

at 12:58 on 18th Aug 2017

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Sexy, seedy and scandalous nuns aplenty- this self-aware production was more laugh-every-thirty-seconds than laugh a minute.

The 18th Century setting somehow allowed for the most modern of love stories. We’re all familiar with the thrill of the chase, but these characters took it to a hilarious extreme. Always surprising and always perfectly executed- this cast know their way around a stage. While the concept of subverting religious expectations is an already saturated market, what the basic concept lacked in originality the utterly barmy plot made up for. Accents were occasionally a bit questionable- and the amount covered were certainly ambitious. The story’s heroine- Fantomina- was played with fabulous naivety by Kathryn Cussons, and actor Simon West played the arrogant Hugo Beauplaisir perhaps a little too convincingly to make him a chap you’d want to head to the pub with.

It made me slightly ashamed to find the characters so relatable- the show successfully poked fun at the audience by poking fun at itself. Every female dating men in the 21st century at some point met a Hugo, and worn the shoes of the female characters (though unlikely their nun’s habit). In amongst all the hilarity they still had time to put across a heart-warmingly cheesy message of ‘being true to oneself’, only to rapidly shed this momentary serious message to give way to an explosively theatrical ending. They approached their performance with the cool indifference that only a team very confident in their abilities could execute. And confident in their abilities they should be. The religious satire was never heavy to the point of making the audience uncomfortable, as it was so outrageously distanced from true religious practice. That said, who knows what nuns really get up to behind closed doors? ‘Bad Habits’ will certainly make you lie in bed wondering the answer to that question the following night. Some of the jokes were obvious and predictable, but the plot itself was anything but. Writing of the highest calibre combined with a distinguished cast means the show should be well on track to real success. If success is measured as it truly should be, by audience response- they are already onto a winner. Almost all jokes landed and even if poking fun at the church isn’t your cup of tea, I dare say you’d struggle not to be tickled at some point.

‘Bad Habits’ is a welcome relief from the hard-hitting of the Fringe, while making a statement it was far from a gruelling watch. It didn’t feel the need, as some comedies do, to stop mid-performance and make you feel guilty for your preceding laughter. This is comedy how it’s supposed to be done.

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