Rosemary Branch Theatre 2 – 14 August. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
The lengths that people are willing to go to for 15 minutes of fame, and the enjoyment audience’s feel from watching their humiliation, are explored brilliantly in this fantastically funny show.
Four university friends, impatient for fame (“People like Joey Essex really inspire us”) and rejected by every reality show, devise their own game show to record and send to a talent scout, who only has a slot for one of them in his new project.
The fearless cast play characters that are instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with X factor interview clips – there’s even a “Who is the most tragic?” round where the contestants have one minute to share their sob stories with the audience. Playing as hysterical caricatures at first, as the rounds progress and forfeits become more extreme, each actor reveals a little more of the deeper need and desperation of their character. The giggles at their friends’ misfortunes eventually become awkward winces of discomfort and shame. The audience, armed with voting handsets, is responsible for selecting the winner, and loser, of each round. When it gets to the stage where spit, catfood, a staplegun and a belt have all been used to inflict punishments, howling with laughter at the loser’s fate begins to feel very wrong, and very uncomfortable. (Although one audience member did shout out the useful suggestion of using the buckle end of the belt, so I may be a little over sensitive!)
And this is where this silly show transcends the naff, cruel, voyeuristic nature of a gameshow – The well thought out characters and situations and quick improvisational skills provide an ultimately sad picture of today’s fascination with talentless fame, and also makes the audience take a long, hard look at themselves and their attitudes. We’ve all sat at home laughing at deluded people arguing with Simon Cowell, or at contestants suffering through humiliating and painful gameshows – “Endurance” anyone? – but when you can hear the click of that staple 5 feet away from you, and smell that catfood, and there is no camera pan away from the victim’s face after their humiliation…
But don’t get me wrong – personal angst aside, this is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen this year. You will wince, squirm, gasp and gag, but above all you will cry with laughter.