The Iconoclasts

The Iconoclasts is a perfect example of why one should never go into a show with any expectations. Based on the poster and description which I had only briefly skimmed, I was expecting a run-of-the-mill artsy cabaret shows, with a bit of overdone backstory thrown in. What I got was a unique, political and thought-provoking piece of theatre, which worked on so many levels it is still making my head spin to think about.

A unique, political and thought-provoking piece of theatre

Supposedly a variety show put on by a Northern Irish performing family in honour of one of their number, it becomes clear early on that the family feuds and political context of Northern Ireland are the real driving forces of this show. This is not to say that the cabaret numbers themselves lacked anything – in particular, Katie Coen as Trish, the commanding matriarch, proved herself with an impressive set of pipes and not inconsiderable riverdance skills to boot. The original compositions by Emily Compton are extraordinary, giving the performers great opportunities to show off their skills – and the live funk band made the night what it was, with each of their number having their own character to fit into the complex plot. Tom Parrish owned the stage on guitar and vocals (but then I am a sucker for a man in eyeliner and a powder-blue suit). Despite the band’s skills, the most beautiful “act” of the show came in an a cappella quartet which – perhaps because it was so unexpected after the razzmatazz of the other performances – took my breath away. Worthy of special mention is Will Taylor, who showed amazing versatility, travelling seamlessly from over-the-top and obnoxious to vulnerable and world-weary.

The reasons, however, that this show falls a little short of five stars are to do with the narrative behind the cabaret numbers. The political message of the show was admittedly interesting, especially to those of us who have given little thought to Northern Ireland’s place in a post-Brexit world, but the narrative became a little dragged out towards the end. I felt like I had got most of what I could get out of the show’s message well before the end, and the extended final scene – including a slightly hammily-done big reveal – felt like too much exposition had been shoehorned in to make the show’s message as clear as possible.

Regardless, in the heightened reality of the cabaret show that Benjamin Price skilfully created, this did little to stop my enjoyment of the show. This up-and-coming group of Sheffield University alumni deserve to do well this Fringe, and for an alternative cabaret night you could do much worse than come along to see them do their stuff.

Reviews by Elliot Douglas


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The Blurb

The Iconoclasts tells the story of an exuberant family façade that is just about ready to crack. Music, magic, poetry, drag and comedy meet in an explosive night of would-be redemption for the former celebs, but the cabaret-style comeback night just goes further and further off course. Half-farce, half-tragedy, the Northern Irish family’s plight leads the audience through their chequered history with poignancy, humility and irreverence – all backed by a live funk band. If they’re going down, they’re going down swinging! ‘Beautifully played’ (Sunday Times).