One hundred brave (or not so brave) Trojan Soldiers are trapped inside the infamous giant wooden horse, plotting their escape…. and you get to be one of them! This is the exciting premise for Fishing 4 Chips' new production at this year's festival - Burning down the Horse. The piece is primarily a light-hearted and silly romp most suited to the sensibilities of your typical fringe-goer looking for something a bit different. Overall it engages and entertains, although if you are looking for a truly immersive bit of theatre you may feel this leaves you feeling slightly short-changed.
delightful use of puns, witty references to classic Greek mythos
The cast are likeable, with consistently sound comic timing and a range of dynamic characters. In particular, Hannah Harquart is endlessly charismatic, leading the audience through the story with formidable charm and stage presence. The show's comedic element mainly surrounds the delightful use of puns, witty references to classic Greek mythos and exaggerated characterisation. This is generally very strong and makes for a fun experience, leaving the audience giggling throughout and smiling upon exit. It has an undeniable charm and it is easy to see the appeal of this ensemble.
The actors are for the most part positioned in and among the audience. This is the primary way in which the immersive experience is created. If you are lucky enough to be sat beside one of the actors seats then you will hear small quips and responses throughout directed at only you; beside this there are occasional moments of audience interaction, however this rarely goes beyond asking an audience member their name or reading a few words out. It felt at times that the script was too stringent to allow for any of the playfulness required for the highest quality audience work, or for the audiences' presence to have any real impact on the performance.
There is a political note running throughout in terms of the nature of power, particularly in relation to workers rights. This was predominantly delivered through the character of the carpenter. While this is admirable and provided some well needed depth to the work, it did at times create a sort of tonal dissonance. While the other characters were delivered as over-the-top caricatures, the carpenter was earnest and serious. His speeches felt jarring amongst the rest of the show. This message could perhaps have been delivered just as clearly through subtext to create a nuanced piece of comedy with a more consistent atmosphere.
There is good reason for the show to be a popular ticket this festival, it provides a unique setting and is ultimately pretty fun. The cast are good and the concept is sound. If you want to see a bit of horseplay in a play about a horse this could easily be the show for you.