Two somewhat belated London “transfers”
of Edinburgh Fringe shows are now on offer in separate houses in the
smaller of the Trafalgar Studios. The Barbershopera company’s shtick is
now well-established: they do a capella musical comedy thrillers. Yet
this year’s offering is a departure to a degree. Barbershopera
mark I told the tale of a company competing in the world barbershop quartet championships; its follow-up, The Barber Of Shavingham
centred on a matador inheriting a barber shop in Norfolk. In each case,
the story grew more or less organically out of the form. Apocalypse No!
however, concerns a put-upon primary school teacher’s attempts to stave
off the Eschaton, having teamed up through a misunderstanding with
three of the Four Horsemen so that the quartet now consists of War,
Famine, Pestilence and Beth. It bowls along in a cheap’n’cheerful,
musically adept way, but form and content feel quite incidental to each
other now, especially given composers Rob Castell and Tom Sadler’s
fondness here for Latin rhythms and Temptations-style Motown numbers. I
can understand their desire to cast their narrative net wider, but the
risk is that the whole enterprise comes off as just another novelty.
In the second-house show, the Fitzrovia Radio Hour
makes a better fist of things. Also potentially a one-trick pony – in
this case, a pastiche 1940s radio broadcast including a number of
episodic thrillers plus commercials – the Fitzrovia company’s potential
for serial reinvention (no pun intended) is greater, since they need
only fashion ten minutes or so at a stretch of ripping yarns such
as Undead Queen Of Evil!
and He Should Have Known His Place
The company of five circulate in formal dress around old-fashioned
stand-up microphones, delivering lines in cut-glass antique BBC accents
and supplying sound effects (crumpling cellophane for flames, and the
classic of using a lettuce as a human head for purposes of blows from
sharp and blunt instruments). No opportunity for period camp passes
unfondled; the commercials are especially fecund, though also
especially anachronistic since, even including pirate stations, the
first advertisement was not heard on British radio until the mid-1960s.
The overall result is an appealing hybrid of the radio-on-stage format
of the Round The Horne Revisited
show from a few years ago and comedian Harry Enfield’s “Mr Cholmondley-Warner” parodies.
Written for the Financial