The Best Play Ever

Mon 21st – Sat 26th August 2017

reviews

Emily Lawford

at 11:39 on 22nd Aug 2017

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The Best Play Ever’ takes place entirely in a medieval jail cell. The court crown polisher and the horn-blower have been wrongly imprisoned for murdering the court jester, and they must write the “best play ever” for the king to save themselves from execution. This may not be the usual recipe for success at the Fringe, but this production by Delicious Theatre had the audience rolling about in their seats with laughter for the entire hour-long performance.

The two lead actors have perfect comic timing and chemistry. The horn-blower, an aspiring playwright is louder and more confident and immediately patronising to the quieter crown-polisher, but it is the latter who ends up having the ideas that begin their play. Their discussion, which ranges from swapping stories they have written to improvising plays to solving murder mysteries, is captivating throughout, and a glance from one could send the audience into gales of laughter at any point. Emily Oulton’s directing has produced a play that it does not feel can put foot wrong, and Lucio Gray, Joe Large and Charlie Diver know work perfectly together to draw out every drop of humour from the text.

The set is minimal, as one would expect from a medieval dungeon. But you’d barely notice it, as the storytelling of the two men conjure up entire villages and castles in our imagination without need of visual aid. Points of the play are genuinely sweet moments of friendship between the two men, as they grow from initial distrust and sparring to working together to make the jester’s life not in vain.

The horn-blower and crown-polisher have particularly hard work as they “improvise” in the cell a whole play that they are writing together, taking it in turns to play all the varied characters in the piece. This sometimes literally involves them jumping from spot to spot to play the different people in conversation with each other, and was a delight for the audience to watch.

Its satire of pretentious actors of course hits home here at the fringe, but we strongly feel for both protagonists as well, and their character growth and budding friendship in the piece is genuinely touching. The play – and the play within the play – reaches absurd points, but always remains entertaining and slick. I rarely find myself hoping a play will not end, but this was one where the final bow made me truly leave wanting more.

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Constance Kampfner

at 12:29 on 22nd Aug 2017

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There’s something irresistible about the chemistry between Joe Large and Lucio Gray, as they wrestle with each other’s egos, the artistic process, and a murder mystery in which they’ve been framed, in Delicious Theatre’s side-splitting new piece The Best Play Ever. Two servants from King Louis’ court are confined in a dungeon for a crime they didn’t commit: A haughty and derisive Horn Blower (Lucio Gray) and an endearing and quick-witted Crown Polisher (Joe Large). The two have been beset with the task of writing the ‘Best Play Ever’ in order to theatrically compensate for the loss of kingly entertainment that came with the murder of Eric the Court Jester, for which they have been falsely accused.

Watching the two bouncing off each other instantly harks back to the great British comedy duos; they are somewhere in between the mismatch of Basil Fawlty and Manuel and the natural camaraderie of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. And like any great comedians, they ensure that more lies behind the surface; their personalities - their charms and insecurities, their dreams of the future and regrets in the past - truly enrich the piece, and the audience cannot help but leave the show with a strong attachment to each character.

The audience is taken on a bizarre rollercoaster of absurd storytelling. A royal detective with a superhuman sense of smell goes searching for a pie cooked by a poor blind boy. A cackling undertaker has a penchant for base pranks. There’s a chef called Jeff who makes a mean continental breakfast. The pair multi-role their way through each of these characters and many more during an explosive hour.

At several points however, particularly when wrested from role-play and the comic imagination, the piece loses its pace. A handful of jokes, mostly hackneyed puns and cliché one-liners which should perhaps have been left alone in the bygone era to which they belong, fatten the script clumsily. For those looking for radically original and intelligent comedy, this isn’t your show. Nevertheless, for what it is, it does incredibly well.

‘The Best Play Ever’ can be seen as much as an ode to the imagination, and the creative process of the artist held captive by his developing work, as a farcical feel-good comedy. I challenge you to leave without a grin on your face, a chatty mood and a spring in your step.

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