You can’t say that Frills and Spills descends into chaos so much as embraces it from the get-go. Meet Lady Frills, the spoilt and overly coddled aristocrat (played very much in the style of Miranda Richardson’s infantile Queen Elizabeth I in Blackadder), and her put upon maid, Spills.
Filled to the brim with fun
Loosely based around the concept of a charity (or “chawidee” according to Frills) cabaret, you get to experience everything from a humorous take on Carmen, to a croquembouche themed egg and spoon race. Although Frills and Spills never crosses the line into full on gross out comedy, after a year of careful hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing, the profiterole scene will leave you gasping for air, as you don’t know whether you should laugh or cringe.
The costuming is inconsistent, but delightful. Although it does not seem to be representative of any specific historical era, with Lady Frills dressed as a Rococo inspired Marie Antoinette or infanta lookalike, and Spills dressed more like an Edwardian style lady’s maid, this hardly matters for a show like Frills and Spills where silliness is the order of the day. The costumes more than make up for any lack of historical accuracy with immediate visual impact, and also continue to provide surprise after surprise throughout.
Performers Grace Church and Chloe Young met at Paris’s famous clowning school, Jacques Lecoq, and they were clearly destined to work together. Both Church and Young are obviously highly talented performers, with beautiful singing voices, and the ability to throw a whole audience into fits of laughter with the simple raise of an eyebrow, repeated word, or furtive glance across the stage.
Their shared confidence in the security of the relationship between them meant that the apparent chaos, improvised quips and audience interactions were deftly handled and always remained firmly under their control. It takes a lot of rehearsal and planning to make disorder run this smoothly.
If Stumble Trip Theatre were hoping to truly skewer the privilege of the wealthy, Frills and Spills hasn’t quite managed it. The satire is witty and well thought out, but relatively uncomplicated and unlikely to inspire any revolutionary action on the way home. And, although the performance reached the conclusion the audience were rooting for, it felt something of a damp squib after such a high energy show.
Frills and Spills might not be a theatrical experience charged with Brechtian levels of political energy, but it is filled to the brim with fun. After a year and a half of life being defined by structure, regulations and rules, watching Church and Young throw caution to the win is a much needed breath of fresh air.