Review: Fred Ted Jack & Harold

1 star rating
Ill-conceived, ill-judged and insensitive, this creepy, wince-inducing and unfunny concoction seeks to squeeze comedy from some of the most prolific and inhuman serial killers.
Fred Ted Jack & Harold at The Cockpit Theatre

Image: Madam Renards



Closes here: Saturday 4 August 2018

Author:
Matt Fox

Director:
Olly Webb

Cast:

Fred - Peter Hynds

Ted - Steve Cowley

Jack - Molly Campbell

Harold - Andrew Cunningham

Myra - Heather Davies

Liz - Sarah Bostock


Synopsis


Six Serial Killers Battle Office Politics.


Eternity working in an office … it's the nightmare that every desk jockey find themselves in … watching their precious lives slip by in a haze of emails, conference calls and soul crushing boredom.


Fred, Ted, Jack & Harold are four such people … or at least they think so.


What if eternity was meant literally?


What if your soul deserved to be crushed?


What if you happened to be the worst of the worst, and every tedious hour spent battling the photocopier was actually payback for the most heinous crimes imaginable?


Fred, Ted, Jack & Harold by internationally acclaimed playwright Matt Fox is the darkest of dark comedies, featuring a selection of infamous characters, in a familiar world turned on its head.


Background


Six Serial Killers Battle Office Politics.


Eternity working in an office … it's the nightmare that every desk jockey find themselves in … watching their precious lives slip by in a haze of emails, conference calls and soul crushing boredom.


Fred, Ted, Jack & Harold are four such people … or at least they think so.


What if eternity was meant literally?


What if your soul deserved to be crushed?


What if you happened to be the worst of the worst, and every tedious hour spent battling the photocopier was actually payback for the most heinous crimes imaginable?


Fred, Ted, Jack & Harold by internationally acclaimed playwright Matt Fox is the darkest of dark comedies, featuring a selection of infamous characters, in a familiar world turned on its head.


ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Saturday 4 August 2018
Review star rating image

Theatre is a flexible and accommodating vehicle for examining the most difficult of subjects - often providing fresh insights and revelations even about situations where humanity has sunk to disturbingly sickening depths.


On the face of it then, one might expect a play about serial killers to find its redemption in opening a window on previously unheard elements of the stories behind their atrocities, perhaps enabling us to better understand why these deranged individuals committed their incredibly horrific crimes.


But this misguided play - Fred Ted Jack & Harold - has no intention of revealing anything new about its central characters or their motivations, apparently aiming to simply exploit them largely for cheap comic purposes that mostly fall flat.


The play focuses on 6 central characters, all of them notorious serial killers:


Myra Hindley, Fred West, Jack the Ripper, Harold Shipman, Ted (Theodore) Bundy, and the murderess, Elizabeth Báthory (lived: 1560 to 1614).


We discover them first in an office where Fred, Ted, Jack and Harold are engaged in some kind of administrative work.


It's only after about 20 minutes that we learn who they are - and that's also (in an odd turn of logic) when they learn who they are, though later their memories seem to start resurfacing.


The office is ruled by Liz (Elizabeth Báthory who murdered hundreds of young women, apparently so she could bathe in their blood and preserve her beauty).


The narrative seeks to ring humour from the situation with plenty of expletives and references to sexual activity liberally littered throughout the script - presumably with the secondary intent of shocking us.


In an effort to salvage some sense of purpose from the concept, the plot makes a foray into current social issues when we find the concept of "big data" being raised - it's actually the work that the serial killers find themselves engaged in during their desk-based roles in this odd afterlife.


But that shot at making the play somehow relevant in a modern and future context ends-up being merely confusing, and thus unconvincing.


Perhaps the question the play is really asking is just how far one can go in terms of the kind of characters one can depict on stage, especially for comic purposes.


That might may be the strategy, but the gags are lewd and largely lame anyway.


The saving grace of the production is that it sports a classy cast, but the play as a whole fails to make its real ambitions clear and merely seems intent on shocking for the sake of it.


And it seems to dismiss the need to consider respect or sympathy for the victims of the crimes these serial killers perpetrated, desensitising us in the process.


That may not be the intention, but it's certainly what I felt about this ill-conceived, ill-judged, insensitive and unfunny play as I left the theatre.


Creepy, wince-inducing stuff.



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