It takes a special show to make the journey to the Church Hill Theatre worthwhile. This is not that show. The CHT is off the edge of the Fringe map, me hearties, and here be dragons. Or, more specifically, performers from The American High School Theatre Festival.
Dearly Departed was everything I’d hoped it wouldn’t be, but I’ll begin with the slowness. The pacing was terrible. Almost every scene in the play was hampered by that awkward... gap... between lines which haunts amateur drama. This wasn’t helped by the audience (apparently all AHST Fest actors and friends), who insisted on applauding and whooping loudly, at length, after every single scene - for an hour and a half.
Then there’s the script. Dearly Departed is ostensibly a comedy about grieving and the funeral industry, but The Loved One this ain’t. Attempts at ‘black comedy’ are painfully misjudged; a skit about multiple miscarriages (‘better luck next time!’) made me wince. The humour is hopelessly localised ‘in hilarious redneck tradition’ as one-dimensional caricatures of Southerners stalk back and forth berating each other for not going to church regularly enough - for an hour and a half. That said, I did quite enjoy the bit when Royce’s mother yells ‘you got Beez-ul-bub in you, boy!’ at him across the car. There seemed to be a lot of scenes set in cars. Two plastic chairs and some bad ‘wheel’ mime and suddenly there’s no need to worry about blocking – swell trick, huh? When the second half descends into emoting, I began to miss the comedy. This show is not worth the trek to the venue. Avoid.