The eminently search-engine-unfriendly Cream Tea and Incest returns to Fringe after a successful outing in 2017, but this time with an all-female cast. For fans this is an opportunity to revisit, for newcomers it’s time to jump in. The essential setup remains the same, less PG and more 12A Wodehouse, with a frankly irrelevant plot giving an excuse for a cod Wooster-ish romp through, over and across all that theatre holds dear. Death, opium, wet bread – all the big themes are here, and all delivered at 100 miles per hour.
If you like your nonsense served hot with a side of japery, this is the show for you
The work is frantic, with jokes, wordplay and assorted hilarity fired from the hip from the off by all four of the cast. The pace becomes difficult to sustain over the full hour, Jeffrey being an oasis of occasional calm in a barrage of one-liners. There are some excellent but sadly infrequent set-pieces which both give the play and audience a bit of time to catch their breath and provide some visual variety. The music hall dance routine is genuinely great. The signature 2D cardboard props remain genius and give the play some needed character. The bare set on the quite large Rose Theatre stage could perhaps have had some cardboard attention.
There are some good performances and the casting against gender helps to soften some of the violence of the original, even at the cost of meaning for a few of the lines. Rosalind Seal as Biggins is the standout performer with good support from the rest of the cast. Paula Gilmour as Eddie Spangler has a certain ‘Bob from Blackadder’ delivery but keeps the action moving. Rosie Edwards gives a surprisingly subtle turn as Jeffrey, the ‘not-in-any-way-Jeeves’ character (who inexplicably is referred to as a butler throughout despite clearly being a valet). Collectively, the cast tend to engage in a bit of shouting one-upmanship, and some variation in tone and volume would have been welcome.
All good, clean fun and well worth a look. If you like your nonsense served hot with a side of japery, this is the show for you.