By S Mulvihill
Fast paced and colourful, the Italia Conti Ensemble bring an excellent adaptation of DBC Pierre’s novel to the stage. With some brilliant comic performances and highly entertaining set pieces the play captures perfectly the wry, bitter humour in this story of a teenage boy wrongly accused as an accessory to mass murder in what quickly becomes a trial by media. Delightfully vile characters, musical numbers and an adroit script make this a highlight for the last week of the Fringe.
The first thing to strike you is the size of the cast: eleven actors chop and change between the myriad characters that crop up throughout the play. The actors pull off some fantastic comic turns; Jack Leonard as the sleazy ambitious reporter Lally, Jess Cummings as the growling Deputy Sheriff Vaine and Alex Craig as the chillingly predatory Dr Goosens to name a few. However the stand out performance comes from Lucy Ware as Vernon’s mother, who singly in this piece brings less caricature and more character to her role. Mike Prince endearingly portrays Vernon, caught up in the madness of the situation, though more could have been made of the normalcy of his character to contrast with the dynamics of everyone else onstage. Set in Texas, the cast made good efforts at American accents, if sometimes there was an odd vowel slip, and the name Jesus seldom came across particularly well (but that might just be me being pedantic).
A particular highlight of this production were the musical numbers. Occasionally feel a bit like set pieces shoehorned in, but still, they were entertaining. A rendition of Rhinestone Cowboy was a definite hit with the audience. The instrumentation was provided by rotating members of the cast, with the drum kit being nicely used to provide sound effects at times. Despite the large cast number onstage at all times the movement was well choreographed so that it never felt like the stage was crowded. A bit more attention could have been given to the balance of the instruments however, as often the keyboard drowned out the singing.
Perhaps this show was a little lacking in subtlety, but that could be considered appropriate given the subject matter: when you’re producing a play that centres around the power of a slick editorial and the stupidity of the masses you can’t go wrong by spelling it out. It’s long for a Fringe show – an hour an a half by my reckoning but at no point does it drag. Boldly, this production didn’t shirk away from the less savoury aspects of the story, which is to its credit. It does at times feel like less could be more, but overall this was an adaptation true to the original novel; full of charm, extremely enjoyable and well worth seeing.