Review: Cream Tea and Incest
Image: Hope Theatre
Benjamin Alborough - Eddie Spangler
Eoin McAndrew - Jeffrey
Aidan Cheng - Lord Wiggins
Edward Spence - Lord Biggins
"Remember what it says in the bible: aim for the stomach and he'll bleed heavily but won't die straight away."
Romance! Adventure! Murder!
Aristocrat Eddie Spangler and valet Jeffrey must learn the meaning of these words and more in this new knockabout Edwardian comedy.
Delight in their capers, mix-ups, and the dead bodies left in their wake.
We follow Eddie Spangler, an incompetent but optimistic Englishman and his loyal valet, Jeffrey, as a simple matchmaking quest quickly deteriorates into a race against time when the Machiavellian forces of the aristocracy move to wreak their vengeance.
Lord Wiggins is set to inherit Rhodesia upon his marriage to Emily Rhodes, but their romance is faltering.
It is up to Eddie and Jeffrey to sort Wiggins out as quickly and violently as possible.
Meanwhile - the evil Lord Biggins lurks in the shadows, waiting to execute dark schemes of his own …
From a sell-out run at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe comes the world's first 2.5 dimensional show set in a world where every prop and set piece is made out of cardboard.
Think The Play That Goes Wrong meets Jeeves and Wooster meets Diary of a Nobody with a little bit of American Psycho thrown in for good measure.
You needn't be overly concerned by the appearance of incest in the title of this comic endeavour.
As far as I can tell - given the confusing nature of the plot - I didn't detect any incest, or even cream teas for that matter, though the title does find its way into the script in the line "as English as cream tea and incest".
Or maybe those plot elements merely whizzed past me in the hour of frantic and chaotic traffic of the stage that this venture resembles.
The central character is one Eddie Spangler, a scheming Edwardian toff who seems to spend most of his time contriving to avoid paying taxes and earning money in scrupulously devious ways.
He's aided and abetted by his smart manservant and general factotum called Jeffrey.
You'll instantly recognise the set-up as an imitation of the famous pair from the Jeeves and Wooster stories by P. G. Wodehouse.
There are some nice touches in Benedict Philipp's production.
At the door, tickets are taken by Eoin McAndrew's suitably deferential Jeffrey, and all the props - guns, letters, suitcases and everything else - are all lovingly created from black and white 2D pieces of cardboard which sets a kind of cartoon flavour for the obviously exaggerated, and thus cartoon-like storyline.
And there are a few comedic gems lurking in Benjamin Alborough's script, with the author's Eddie describing himself as 'tragically potent' (in terms of his sexual prowess) and there's an inspired line about a coal mine becoming a dimaond mine because investors "put the pressure on" (yes, it's a groaner, but in a good way!).
But the main feature of this show are three larger-than-life characters, all described in excessively exaggerated terms.
Edward Spence's Biggins, for example, mostly speaks at a volume that would easily drown out the roar of the crowd at nearby Highbury football ground, and Aidan Cheng's hugely affected Wiggins borders on the tediously painful at times.
Those excesses would be fine if only the characters had the back-up of a plethora of coruscatingly witty gags to support them.
Though there is a sprinkling of laugh-out-loud moments, we never got close to gales of helpless laughter sweeping the audience.
Cast (l to r) Eoin McAndrew, Edward Spence, Aidan Cheng, Benjamin Alborough - photo: Olivia Rose Deane
By the midpoint, I felt in need of care in a home for the bewildered as I had become almost completely befuddled by the plot.
That may well be the basic intention in what is, after all, an intentionally barmy concoction, and logic and realism can be thrown to the winds easily enough in a comedy.
But the combination of oddball plot and overblown characters needed the injection of more inventively comedic lines, which Benjamin Alborough demonstrates he is capable of writing - so some judicious tinkering in the script department would not go amiss to elevate the concept from the realm of the merely bizarre and into the heady mists of the palpably hilarious.
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