Brighton Fringe News & Reviews

This is where you can read recent news articles and reviews of shows in this year's Brighton Fringe


List News & Reviews: By Star Count | By Date


REVIEW: Vermin

May 17, 2022    Broadway Baby

Review of Vermin

REVIEW: Vermin

In Rachel and Billy’s life, rats scratch at drywall and run across kitchen countertops. Vermin is an unfiltered account of their imploding relationship and the rodent shaped wedge being driven between them. In this dark drama, two characters driven by obsession divulge some chilling confessions.

The playscript is written with such purpose it is evident that every word has been consciously chosen. Triptych Theatre does not mince its words, not one is wasteful padding to soften the drama. Benny Ainsworth’s writing seamlessly transitions from scene to scene despite the flips between retrospective narration and flashbacks of the real-time events. Obvious care has been taken in the structuring of the scenes and the flow of the story felt like a natural progression; strongly led by the actors. Additionally, the interruptions of the graver parts of the story with the more humorous moments worked really well to momentarily cut the tension and left the audience with questions that would later be answered.

The noticeable thought given by Michael Parker, Benny Ainsworth and Sally Paffett into the production elements of Vermin is another reason it is such a strong show. The choice to stage it in an intimate room within The Walrus meant that the audience’s possible desire to avoid the uncomfortable narrative is removed; there is nowhere to look but the actors in front of you. Additionally, the absence of music or sound effects only increases the volume of the sobering silences. We were forced to confront Billy’s graphic violent descriptions head on, and squirm at the pleasure he gains from them – which evidently had the desired effect of audience discomfort, as I noticed a spectator with a hand over their mouth.

Lastly, I need to credit the actors for their incredible performances. Paffett undoubtably understood her character Rachel inside and out and she gave an extremely nuanced performance. As the show progressed, it was great watching the gradual change in her facial reactions from adoration to disgust whilst Billy recounted his side of the events. Her monologue about the tragic loss she faced was heart-breaking, and I can’t imagine what it takes to shake the character off and decompress after the show. She truly embodied Rachel and I believed every single word. Ainsworth as Billy was a terrific counterpart to Paffett. I loved how he looked to specific audience members when telling his story, attempting to pull them onside and initially succeeding with his cheeky-chappy demeanour. He gave an excellent performance of the extremely dark source material, complete with an unsettling glimmer in his eye that cast a deep unease over me.

You know something is an exceptional piece of drama when you come away and can’t stop thinking about it. Triptych Theatre have created a gritty and engrossing show which had me hooked from the moment Billy and Rachel stepped onto stage. If you enjoy dark comedy, Vermin is an absolute must-see this Fringe. Click Here For Review


Review: VERMIN by Benny Ainsworth/Triptych Theatre at Etcetera, Camden 25/26 March 2022

March 28, 2022    London Pub Theatres Magazine

Review of Vermin

Review: VERMIN by Benny Ainsworth/Triptych Theatre at Etcetera, Camden 25/26 March 2022

‘Vermin is a really strong piece of storytelling coupled with clever writing; fascinating, entertaining and horrifying all at once.’ ★★★★

When one has been reviewing on the fringe scene for as long as I have, every show starts to look like each other. Particularly during preview season. So, it's always refreshing when a show brings along something different. Even if that something different is completely unhinged. On paper, Vermin by Benny Ainsworth, is a typical fringe show. It's an hour-long two-hander with minimal set and minimal tech requirements. But what makes this show different are the characters, played by Benny Ainsworth and Sally Paffett.

Rachel and Billy are drawn to each other because they are different, two knives in a drawer full of spoons if you will. They meet under unusual circumstances and things move quickly from there on. Before they know it, they are married and living together in a house they plan to do up. But they aren't alone, there is another presence ever present in their relationship.

The snappy modern dialogue is well suited for the quick back and forth way the characters use to tell the story. We get to know Rachel and Billy as well as hear the story from both of their perspectives in an entertaining way. Ainsworth and Paffett have great chemistry and read well as a married couple going through the motions. The writing is clever and challenges the viewer to think after each laugh. Using hints of surrealism, the whole story reminds one of a modern folk tale, less H.C Andersen and more the original Grimm tales.

This show is not for the faint of heart and the trigger warnings could include more detail. Currently the show literature only says: Contains adult themes which may be distressing for some viewers. Whilst it is important not to spoil the integrity of the story, audiences may easily be triggered by various themes in this play. The show contains themes of suicide, miscarriage and graphic descriptions of animal abuse.

Additionally, it includes depictions of OCD that some may find upsetting. Billy uses his OCD to excuse his violent tendencies, a throw away statement that is not explored any further in the text and as a standalone statement seems rather uncalled for. With more context it might read as an interesting character study but as it is it looks as if the show is trying to use mental illness as a way to explain erratic behaviour. Although it is a well-known trope from older horror films but one I thought we'd moved past in 2022.

Vermin is a really strong piece of storytelling coupled with clever writing. It is fascinating, entertaining and horrifying all at once. It is one of those pieces that will have you talking for hours afterwards and definitely not one to miss at this year's fringe. Click Here For Review


VERMIN, Etcetera Theatre, London

March 28, 2022    The Theatre Reviewer

Review of Vermin

VERMIN, Etcetera Theatre, London

Written by Benny Ainsworth and directed by Michael Parker, this is a very unique and darkly entertaining play. Its characters are most original in their quirks and lusts, and plot, for the most part, is coherent and well structured.

I shall start with acting. Benny Ainsworth (playing Billy) and Sally Paffett (playing Rachel) have a great command on their roles, sure of their character intentions and credible in their approaches, particularly Paffett. Their characterisations are wonderful, and expressivity and emotional range are most impressive. However, more action is required from Ainsworth when Paffett is delivering her monologues alone. When Ainsworth delivers his, Paffett still remains attentive and energised, engaged in his words, paying extra attention to include characteristic shakes of the head, smiles and movements; during hers, however, Ainsworth stays inert and somewhat expressionless, to the point where one could argue that he is actually no longer acting. I should also note his failure to conceal the blood bags he uses later in the play appropriately. Nevertheless, Ainsworth is an excellent performer, overall, energised, confident and captivating. The two also demonstrate great attentiveness to naturalistic vocal delivery, as far as the text will allow, and both have great vocal expressivity, too.

The written text is most unique and offers explicit, detailed and enriched grounds for a promising performance. Whilst naturalism in dialogue is not entirely achieved, as alluded to above, the relationship between and the detailing of these characters is superb. I would just pay greater attention to plot development and character development, for the reasons I shall list below. Comedy is gory and sensationalist, peculiar and original. The nonlinear fragmentation of scenes and subplots is also most effective here, allowing for dynamism and variety in the material. Direct audience address is also consistent throughout this performance and the performer-audience relationship is maintained throughout whilst the characters’ stories are recounted to us, leading to excellent stylistic continuity — which seems standard, but this is actually denotative of great talent and skill, given how rare this stylistic awareness seems to be amongst playwrights today. I should also mention that audience address is handled wonderfully by the two actors, too, who do not restrict the ambit of their gaze and who address all audience members consistently. A wonderfully conceived and written text.

In terms of staging, lighting states (tech design and operation by Ben Sorab) are minimal, and this does not pose a problem for this performance, as the use of space, the expressivity of the actors, and the material itself, which remains extensive in its range of topics, memories and contexts, are enough to enliven the stage. Costume is appropriate for these performers, coinciding with the text’s natural propensity to humanise and naturalise these characters, which is most befitting for such villainous and murderous individuals from which it might be otherwise easy to detach. Topography is well-conceived, and the simplicity of the two chairs and their utilisation is sufficiently facilitative and grounding for this performance. I am also most impressed by the music composed by Sorab that precedes this performance. This music is most congruous and preparatory as well as well composed.


On to the negatives. The greatest issues for this performance are continuity, the structuring of provocative elements, and tempo management.

I shall address the former first, which mostly refers to Rachel’s character. Starting as a peculiar and unique character, sharing in Billy’s dark interest in the suicide of the man at the train station in the beginning of this performance and in the murder of Jeff the Cat, Rachel suddenly transforms into a rather weakly defined and amicable character at the appearance of the first rat. She becomes somewhat of a cliché, rather predictably replacing the spirit of her stillborn child with that of the rodents she befriends, aggravated by her layabout husband, his ignorance towards her and his obsession with tools.

Poisoning him at the end, one could say that she rather redeems herself, but I am afraid this ending is rather unoriginal, and not to mention predictable, especially with the conspicuous colour change in Billy’s commonplace cheesecake. Put bluntly, I remain rather disappointed with how her character turns out and disappointed by the ending which feels cheap and slapdash. To go from miming with explicit verbal detail the cracking of the back legs of a neighbour’s pet cat with garden shears and mircrowaving a rat to its explosive death to a subtle poisoning that we do not even see beyond Billy’s coughing blood is a great anticlimax. And why her suicide? This ought to be better elucidated. We really gain an insight into Billy’s character, and his fondness of chicken nuggets and tools should not be forgotten her, but further detailing of Rachel’s character is needed to ensure that she becomes more than this maternal cliché.

I should also mention here that this disinterest that Billy demonstrates and to which Rachel draws our attention during the discovery of the loss of their child is discontinuous with the plotline; at this point in the relationship, the two were madly in love, and Billy was as concerned by the miscarriage as Rachel was, as evidenced by his subsequent inability to even hear the child’s name. I do find it bizarre that either of them, especially to such a degree as Rachel, should be so emotionally invested in a child at all, given their apparent psychopathy. Conversely, I should expect they would be perhaps thrilled at the morbid idea of losing a child.

On to the second issue, which I should prelude with the elucidation that I personally had no issue with the darker elements of this text; I found them rather rich and imaginative. However, a dark text still requires two things: 1) we still need to be eased into material if it is to be considered comedic and [paradoxically] lighthearted, pleasing or cathartic, and 2) dark material needs to serve a purpose for the text itself and not just for the sensationalist instrumentalisation of the audience’s squeamishness [in other words: not merely for punchy, gory dramatic effect]. Jeff’s murder is far too extreme to include so early on. Again, it weakens the final scenes, but it also stops us in our tracks too prematurely in the performance from developing a bond with the characters. We must still understand Billy’s actions, if not enjoy them, and the later revelation that all of this is due to some sort of OCD feels like an afterthought or a retrospective justification, not a clever aspect of his psychology.

This explanation ought to come before, to allow a humanisation of the characters to prepare us for and ground us in their dark compulsions and desires, to give us a reason to tolerate being subjected to the horrors and an understanding as to why it is necessary to our reading of this story. The added vulnerability and likability of the average pet cat is also a factor that works against our enjoyment of the characters here. So early on in the play, we do not want to feel detached from and uncomfortable with these characters whose actions we must still observe for the best part of an hour. It is worth stressing here that whilst it is Billy specifically who details this event, Rachel is not exempt from our detachment, given that she enjoys, condones and encourages it: “My favourite.”

Again, the problem is not that the material is “too dark” but that it is poorly organised, and the creatives will find this apparent when re-studying the silence that befell the house that had previously comprised an entirely engaged and laughing audience up until the elaboration upon Jeff’s murder. This collective discomfort and reticence is a driving factor to simply destroy any subsequent comedic aspects of the play. Perhaps the story should be left with the bird, and the story of the cat should be ‘kept for later’ once we have learned more about Billy’s character and the context in which these characters later find themselves.

Finally, tempo management. Also an editorial issue, particularly in the beginning, where the back-and-forth between the two characters is rather too structured and hence inorganic, rhythm is a recurring issue in this performance which is in danger of becoming too univocal. Disruptions, where one character tells the other to stop talking to let them deliver their part alone, for example, are a good way of breaking this up, but their number becomes too significant, and the emotional effect this request has on the characters becomes too predictable and samey. More variation is required here, and such disruptions alone should not be relied upon to add rhythmic range. Furthermore, the actors, at times, speed through the text, and [this is mainly true of Paffett] do not allow enough time for audience laughter, leading to the repetition of their lines that the audience might not have heard. The two need to be better aware of their pacing and its naturalism and of these moments of respite where comedy can be permitted to settle in the house.

As one final, somewhat pedantic note, if the actors are to stay back to thank the audience for coming and to detail the future aspirations of their work, etc., I should recommend that Paffett’s demeanour be rectified during this. She seemed, for some reason, deflated and dejected, and this is by no means a desirable final energy with which one wishes to leave an audience.

All of these things noted, this still remains a most enjoyable and intelligent performance. It is well-conceived and performed marvellously.

“An inspired, rich and sensational performance.” Click Here For Review


Black Comedy HAPPENINGS To Play Brighton Fringe And Hope Theatre Islington

February 7, 2022   Broadway World

Article about Happenings

Black Comedy HAPPENINGS To Play Brighton Fringe And Hope Theatre Islington

If your life is made up of things that happen to you, then what is your value if nothing ever happens?

Newly Established Theatre Company, Not Your Muse, today announce that the dark comedy 'Happenings' by John Berry will play at The Walrus as part of Brighton Fringe 10-19 May, The Hope Theatre, Islington 22 & 23 May The Space - in person and livestream events on 12 June & 14 June.

Happenings explores the unfulfilled aspirations and monotonous existences of three 30-somethings, who have the whole world at their feet, but cannot find the way to move forward.

In these tough times it seems everything is a struggle. Jane wishes that something, anything, would happen to fill the void in her life. Clearly everyone else is happy. One look at social media will tell you that. Joe doesn't understand how he can view the world so differently. He says he's just happy to get along and be left alone. Maybe, neurodiverse character, Fran, really does have all the answers. Or are the same fears that keep her friends together slowly tearing her apart?


If your life is made up of things that happen to you, then what is your value if nothing ever happens? How much would you dare risk to push your life agenda, and how easily can it all fall apart?

Having originally previewed in 2020 this brand-new revision of Happenings will be directed by the Company with cast including Zo Biba-Leonard, Elly Tipping, Matt Turpin and Neil Russell

Living in the shadow of Beachy Head Writer John Berry suffered terrible tragedy when three close friends took their own lives. Inspired by the sitcoms of Gervais/Merchant and the cynical worldview of Charlie Brooker, Berry said:

"As a writer I felt compelled to tackle the very personal issue of suicide. My community had always used humor to cope with the recurrent tragedies we sadly see quite regularly. It was important to me that anything I wrote didn't preach and drew on these personal experiences, also reflecting the world we live in today and the experiences of countless 30 somethings. Happenings was the result"

Happenings is produced by the newly formed Not your Muse Theatre company, a female-led production company comprising of Zo Biba-Leonard (Morgan), Elly Tipping and Rachel Kimber; They champion new writing and are passionate in giving people credit for artistic and production input and supporting women in every stage of their careers in every role.

Zo Biba-Leonard from Not Your Muse Theater Company said:

"Following the initial production of Happenings in 2020 we've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of emotion and support from our audiences. In telling us their stories these individuals have also become part of the constant evolution of the play. We believe in collaborative working and in the ongoing development of the play have worked with our cast and the creative team to explore their personal experiences too which has resulted in some exciting and new perspectives. We couldn't be more delighted to be presenting this reworking of Happenings - An important play for these times and the blackest of comedies - to a wider audience this Spring"

Tickets are on sale now at https://www.brightonfringe.org and www.thehopetheatre.com and www.space.org.uk for more information visit www.notyourmusetheatre.co.uk
 Click Here For Article


We've launched our 2022 Brighton Fringe Programe! Just in time to make Fringe tickets the perfect Christmas Present!

December 6, 2021   Laughing Horse News

We've launched our 2022 Brighton Fringe Programe! Just in time to make Fringe tickets the perfect Christmas Present!

Welcome to the 2022 Brighton Fringe! Click Here For Article


Jack the Ripper: My Life as a Suspect, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Maggie’s Chamber

August 22, 2021    thereviewshub.com

Review of Jack The Ripper My life as a Suspect

Jack the Ripper: My Life as a Suspect, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Maggie’s Chamber

If you’re looking for the blood, guts and gore story of Jack the Ripper, you’ve come to the wrong place. As a venue, Maggie’s Chamber may effortlessly transport you to the dark streets and tunnels of London in the late nineteenth century, but Jack the Ripper: My Life as a subject is not aiming for the lowest common denominator depiction of murder, scandal and revulsion.

Writer and performer Robert Inston has instead turned a light on some of the suspects and other public figures as they respond to the public concern or accusations against them. Queen Victoria is the first person we meet, and we then descend gradually down the social classes ending at the notorious downtrodden “leather apron”, whose name seemed to be irrelevant to people looking for a suspect who could confirm their prejudices and leave their trust in the upper classes intact.

Inston bookends the show with explanations of his reasons for choosing these characters and how they are developing further, and extending the show’s running time, the more times he plays them. He admits that he’s instinctively drawn to the more well-off flamboyant figures, but it’s as we reach the lower orders that the people and monologues get more compelling.

Before that, there’s a feeling that the characters are reporting the media perceptions of them and claiming them to be wrong, but not really giving an alternative version of themselves or commenting on what the accusations say about the accusers and societies perception of bohemians and outsiders.

It’s only when Inston goes deeper inside the character’s heads, moving beyond their public faces and words and into their internal thoughts and reality, that the show really replaces the salacious with the psychological, and introduces us to people and lives that are normally left out of retellings of the story. When it does, it takes us into a world that you wish could be explored further. Click Here For Review


Interview with The New Current

August 1, 2021   World Premiere Brighton Fringe Festival 2021 Fragile

Article about Fragile

Interview with The New Current

Did you have any apprehensions about writing and performing in a piece that draws from you own experiences?



I firmly believe that writing from your own experience is the best thing you can do. It feels authentic, unique, whole, surprising, and gratifying. I used my experience as an inspiration and then I went deeper. Not everything you will see in the show happened in real life. I took reality and I made it even more honest. I investigated what was underneath the surface and I decided to be brave enough to share it in my story. Click Here For Article


Interview for "Always Time for the Theatre

August 1, 2021   Interview: Agustina Dieguez Buccella Talks New Show, “Fragile”

Article about Fragile

Interview for "Always Time for the Theatre

I’m glad to here it. So “Fragile” is your first solo show following previous theatre and film projects, and it sounds like it comes from a very personal place for you. What influenced you to bring this story to the stage?

Fragile came so organically and effortlessly to me. I found myself writing things that were coming from my heart, in a non-judgemental and cathartic way. I didn’t know at the beginning that I was writing a one-woman show. I was simply allowing what was in my heart to be put on paper. It was later when I was re-reading my notes that I came to realise that I had a story to tell. A one-woman show felt like the perfect medium for it. Click Here For Article


Eliott Simpson: (a)sexy and I Know It

August 1, 2021   Arts York Webzine

Article about Eliott Simpson: (A)sexy and I Know it

Eliott Simpson: (a)sexy and I Know It

Comedian Eliott Simpson brings his show (a)sexy and I Know It to the Great Yorkshire Fringe prior to a run at the Edinburgh Fringe next month. The (a) is aptly placed, as Simpson’s show centres around his asexuality, and society’s response to this oft forgotten and misunderstood minority.

Simpson is an instantly likeable figure, bounding on stage enthusiastically in an Austin Powers style violet suit and waffle bowtie, and from that moment on the audience feels relaxed in his self-deprecating yet simultaneously self-assured company. Complete with props to aid his cheesy yet well-placed one-liners (plus running commentary of how much they set him back), and PowerPoint which largely serves to project various ‘dick pics’, the laughs just keep on coming. A section on the new-found gay romance between the Babadook and Pennywise the clown is a highlight.

As with any work in progress there are a couple of jokes that fall a bit flat (I’d skip the one about the Glaswegian comic’s advice), but by this point the audience are so in tune with Simpson that it doesn’t matter. Overall, he succeeds in finding the right balance between being both informative and hilarious, personal and universal, with a fominute show that is accessible and inclusive to members of the LGBTQIA community and its allies. Worth checking out in Edinburgh – with this ace show you can have your cake and eat it too.

(a)sexy and I Know It previewed at The Basement, York on the 23rd July 2019 as part of the Great Yorkshire Fringe. Keep up with Eliott and his gigs calendar here. Click Here For Article


Eliott Simpson: (a)sexy and I Know It

August 1, 2021   Arts York Webzine

Article about Eliott Simpson: (A)sexy and I Know it

Eliott Simpson: (a)sexy and I Know It

Comedian Eliott Simpson brings his show (a)sexy and I Know It to the Great Yorkshire Fringe prior to a run at the Edinburgh Fringe next month. The (a) is aptly placed, as Simpson’s show centres around his asexuality, and society’s response to this oft forgotten and misunderstood minority.

Simpson is an instantly likeable figure, bounding on stage enthusiastically in an Austin Powers style violet suit and waffle bowtie, and from that moment on the audience feels relaxed in his self-deprecating yet simultaneously self-assured company. Complete with props to aid his cheesy yet well-placed one-liners (plus running commentary of how much they set him back), and PowerPoint which largely serves to project various ‘dick pics’, the laughs just keep on coming. A section on the new-found gay romance between the Babadook and Pennywise the clown is a highlight.

As with any work in progress there are a couple of jokes that fall a bit flat (I’d skip the one about the Glaswegian comic’s advice), but by this point the audience are so in tune with Simpson that it doesn’t matter. Overall, he succeeds in finding the right balance between being both informative and hilarious, personal and universal, with a fominute show that is accessible and inclusive to members of the LGBTQIA community and its allies. Worth checking out in Edinburgh – with this ace show you can have your cake and eat it too.

(a)sexy and I Know It previewed at The Basement, York on the 23rd July 2019 as part of the Great Yorkshire Fringe. Keep up with Eliott and his gigs calendar here. Click Here For Article


Jack the Ripper: My Life as a Suspect

August 1, 2021    BroadwayBaby

Review of Jack The Ripper My life as a Suspect

Jack the Ripper: My Life as a Suspect

henever we think of Jack the Ripper, immediately we think back to Whitechapel and his gruesome victims. Robert Inston's work in progress show Jack The Ripper: My Life as a Suspect explores the people who were seen as suspects at the time, including people such as George Chapman, with well researched historical fact, as well as monologues that indicated the type of people they were according to the media at the time. But what if the newspapers were wrong and they had a voice? This is where Inston's well portrayed characters and concept comes in.

he became each suspect with such ease and dexteriety

The show that I saw showed Inston performing in front of a tiny audience with none of the original costumes he normally uses due to the uncertainty with audience numbers on this occasion. Normally I would say that the costume makes a show like this with strong performances such as Inston's, however the version we saw equally worked without the costumes, as we saw him in his most neutral state as well as the subtle physical transitions as he became each suspect with such ease and dexteriety without going into melodramatic territory. It is easy to assume that anything to do with Jack the Ripper, thanks to previous films (including the more recent From Hell) that the Victorian period was all about big characters and big actions, but as shown today, it was the stillness of each transition as he chillingly became each character that made this particular show engaging and educational.

There were moments of gentle comedy where he channelled a very regal Queen Victoria to show how she viewed these horrible crimes whilst in mourning for her love Albert. He captured her mannerisms well by underplaying rather than overplaying, making her charming and engaging. But it was the sections explaining more about the characters in development, as well as the ongoing historical research that was interesting to listen to and left us asking more about his extensive knowledge about Jack the Ripper after the show. He mixed fact with humerous anecdotes from his experiences so far with living in Whitechapel itself and working as a tour guide for the Jack The Ripper Museum, which added a personalised touch to the journey of self discovery he was on and left us wanting more.

With the costumes in place and further things to be added, Jack the Ripper: My Life As A Suspect looks set for future success and even though right now it has the bare bones of a show, everything about it showcases Robert Inston's incredible talent and intellect. It would be interesting to follow this show on its journey as it grows - especially as the subject is not for the sensitive or faint-hearted. But with the right approach, which Inston seems to be on, this show looks set for further success. Click Here For Review


Interview for The Phoenix Remix

June 29, 2021   Camden Fringe 2021

Article about Fragile

Interview for The Phoenix Remix

And now you are returning to the stage!!! How exciting! What are you looking forward to the most?

The adrenaline of live performances! I live for that feeling. And also the response from the audience and the connection with them. Seeing how my show impacts on every person that has decided to give me one hour of their time. The public renews everyday and the audience’s energy is different on every show. That keeps me proactive, fresh and expectant. It’s a challenge I happily accept. Click Here For Article


REVIEW: AN AUDIENCE WITH STUART BAGCLIFFE/The Cat's Back

May 20, 2019    London Pub Theatres Magazine

Review of An Audience With Stuart Bagcliffe

REVIEW: AN AUDIENCE WITH STUART BAGCLIFFE/The Cat's Back

‘Slick and powerful writing that keeps the audience mesmerised throughout.’ ★★★★

A young, nervous boy enters the stage with his mother in the wings, adding to his nervous disposition. This is Stuart Bagcliffe’s first time on stage and his mum is very keen for him to do well because she has written and directed the piece. He must also deal with a technician that falls asleep and misses lighting cues.

Too often one-person plays can be self-indulgent nonsense. Not true in the case of this little gem. One person entertaining an audience for forty-five minutes is no easy task. However, Michael Parker who plays Stuart Bagcliffe was outstanding in his portrayal of young boy, teenager and in the final stages of the piece, an adult. His naivety in the opening sections was charming. He was ‘giddy with specialness’and his charm gave the audience a false sense of security because when things started to spiral out of control the audience was not sure if Stuart was at fault or not. This confusion simply added to the intrigue. Parker’s switching from innocence to guilt and anger was alarming and uncomfortable.

This was Benny Ainsworth debut play but it certainly didn’t feel like it. There were laugh out loud moments and his journey of ages was a clever device. Slick and powerful writing that kept the audience mesmerised throughout. By the end of the piece there was a little confusion about who did what to whom and some clarification might help, although allowing the audience to make their own minds up also worked. The journey home was one of contemplation about wanting more answers.

Sally Paffett used some good techniques in her debut directing skills. The interaction with the stage manager and the mother were carefully orchestrated and added to the feeling of immersive theatre. Paffett, Ainsworth and indeed Triptych Theatre Company should be observed with keen interest.

The only negative thing about this production is that it was only on for two nights. Keep an eye out for Stuart Bagcliffe appearing in more fringe venues in the not too distant future. Click Here For Review


Playback Impro

August 12, 2015    Broadway Baby

Review of Playback Impro

Playback Impro

he concept of Playback Impro is both a simple and an effective one. Simple because the material used to create its humourous improvised sketches comes directly from audience members’ stories, and effective because this method allows the performers to dodge what is perhaps the most difficult part of creating an unscripted, unplanned performance: coming up with a structure on the spot.

Perhaps Playback Impro's strongest selling point is that it allows us to indulge ourselves in our memories and stories. Through it we are allowed to share the things that make us laugh, or make us proud, and see them brought to life by a talented cast of performers.

With that issue sorted out by our keen, active audience, the four-person company A Drunken Sailor were able to concentrate on delighting us with a friendly, inclusive and, most importantly, hilarious performance. Some of the stories tackled included Oyster-card theft, goal-scoring, topless singing and a desperate search for water. This diverse range of subjects was explored through an equally diverse range of genres and styles that the performers dipped into for comic effect. A soliloquy of classic Shakespearean grandeur was performed off-the-cuff, sinister strings were strummed to create a Hammer horror-like atmosphere and they even succeeded in working in a biblical chorus.

As is the risk with most improvisational theatre, the occasional awkward moment crept into the performance. Sometimes even the most fertile mind can't come up with an entertaining way of presenting a teeth brushing scene. The show's opening, explanatory section wasn't as smooth as it could have been, with the cast seeming to give each other example stories that were extremely difficult to dramatise in a funny way. For a few brief moments, it seemed like it wasn't going to work, and that we were about to inch through 50 excruciating minutes before, thankfully, the performers began to gel. This is an occupational hazard. To avoid it, the company would have to prepare material beforehand, which would betray the concept that breathes so much energy and humour into the show.

Perhaps Playback Impro's strongest selling point is that it allows us to indulge ourselves in our memories and stories. Through it we are allowed to share the things that make us laugh, or make us proud, and see them brought to life by a talented cast of performers. Their greatest strength lay not in their performative skills or even their improvisational bravery but in their skill in including us as an audience and gauging our mood. They were not scared to go for a cheap laugh when they felt we needed lifting, and that was beneficial to the mood of the room. They were not scared to openly communicate the genre or method they were about to use to the audience, which helped to bring our multinational and mixed age group to a common understanding that made the experience an entertaining and enjoyable one. In fact they had very few fears at all.

There can be no spoilers here, but it seems safe to guarantee an energetic, funny and thoroughly enjoyable performance that will let you laugh. I'm not making it up.



Andrew Forbes
By Andrew Forbes @Forbesan14 Click Here For Review


Playback Impro

August 20, 2014   The Mirror

Article about Playback Impro

Playback Impro

A real standout from all the stand-up, this is comic improvisation theatre-style. Four actors each take it in turn to direct a narrative supplied by the audience.
It can be anything from a mundane event on the way to the theatre, to a traumatic childhood experience. The interaction is fun, compelling and very imaginative.
And the the quick-witted troupe step into your story, giving it a genre and treatment in seconds – making it very slick. A show that will keep you coming back for another unrepeatable performance.' Trevor Davies. 20/08/2014


Playback Impro

May 12, 2014    Broadway Baby

Review of Playback Impro

Playback Impro

By Johanna Makelainen | 12th May 2014 | ★★★★
Five actors in their pyjamas create a show from audience anecdotes, bringing them to life with their expressions, postures and words. The idea of playback impro is simple: audience members tell stories and which the actors reflect back to them in a particular style. Production company A Drunken Sailor made it seem like an easy task. But how do you become an angry wasp? You grab a stool, place it on your forehead and start chasing the target with it of course. The performance was spontaneous, ingenious and thoroughly entertaining.

One hour was way too short for this treat.

The cast proved to be solid professionals. The five strong London-based group were Julia Munrow, Kelda Holmes, Chloe Conquest, Nathan Allenby and Roderich Millan – a good mix of experience and playful enthusiasm. If I had to pick a favourite, it was young Chloe. The performance of the night goes to Kelda for her hilarious drunken Irish women, but there are no weak links. It’s evident from the quality of the performance that group have been working together for over a year.

Different formations and styles kept it interesting and soon we got used to the impro lingo: ‘short form’ is a brief moment in life, ‘free form’ means the actors decide the style and so on. We had normal chorus, diamond chorus, split chorus, pairs, and what not, with styles ranging from horror to opera. I still feel out of breath just thinking about it. Wearing identical pyjamas was a stroke of genius. It acted as an ice-breaker, dissolved gender and age, and guided the audience to the world of bedtime stories.

We were fortunate to have a selection of really funny stories from the audience - a 21st birthday party where a guy dressed as a caterpillar decides to drink a bottle of expensive perfume. Or a girl who cuts off her great grandmother’s plait with scissors and places the hair on her doll. The loose theme seemed to circle around childhood misdemeanours. The show ended in an amazing medley, which formed an absurd yet intriguingly coherent narrative.

Those audience members who don’t like to be involved can rest easy as well. There is no hackling or pressure to perform. But most were more than happy to see their memory played back to them. This was one of the few shows at the Brighton Fringe that I really didn’t want to end. One hour was way too short for this treat. There are still two more chances to catch the show at the Quadrant. It’s free and the afternoon matinee time means that kids can go too. So what are you waiting for? It doesn’t get any better than this.



Johanna Makelainen
By Johanna Makelainen @JojoMakelainen Click Here For Review