Giant Leap

The idea behind Giant Leap is fascinating: a group of writers attempt to pen Neil Armstrong's first words as America fakes the 1969 moon landing. All of the ingredients for a great performance are there, with a solid concept, risqué humour and an experienced comedic cast, but unfortunately it fails to capture an audience’s attention.

Perhaps with the right audience this particular brand of 'foul-mouthed' American humour would go down a storm, but in this case it just fell flat.

The show claims to be 'fast paced' and we are certainly thrown right into the action, as the production opens with a novelist, a comic and a level headed secretary all deep in discussion. However this scene tries so hard to keep up its momentum that it was hard to follow exactly what was going on. Actors raced through their lines or mumbled so quietly that it was almost impossible to catch anything. This was not helped by the fact that none of the characters have anything that called be called depth. Each character is based on a simple comedy stereotype: for example, Mitch Gitin (Lewis Schaffer) is introduced to us as the neurotic, failing comic who constantly questions why he is needed on the project and continuously spouts rather poor jokes. At no point does this character develop into anything more or less, and it is not long before we find ourselves getting rather bored by the lack of variety across the board.

Some of the actors also look fairly uncomfortable on stage. Schaffer regularly looks out of place amongst the loud performances of Phil Nichol and Jeremy Lloyd, but it is very unclear if he is trying to overcompensate for Mitch's anxiety or simply trying to match the energy of Nichol's performance. Similarly, Colonel Oates (Graham Elwell) at times has such a weak presence on stage that we regularly forget he is still standing aimlessly in the corner.

The redeeming performances came from Tom Stade as the novelist, Frank Paar, and Nichol as the overbearing boss, Jay Weinberg. Together these two showed confidence and delivered very assured performances. We see the two enter into something of a battle of wits, grabbing our attention, while Nichol's lude, boisterous humour works very well alongside Stade's offbeat, subtle cynicism.

Sadly much of the humour was lost. Miss Jones (Priscilla Adade-Helledy) at one point states that one of Mitch's jokes "didn't land again" but even the notion of finding comedy in Mitch's failings is completely lost through a mixture of weak delivery and rushed-over jokes. This sometimes got so bad that a scene would move on from a joke before the audience had time to understand the punchline. That is not to say that there is no humour in this production. Many gags were so unsubtle and bawdy - especially the obscene rantings of Mr Weinberg - that it just seemed to be trying too hard. Perhaps with the right audience this particular brand of 'foul-mouthed' American humour would go down a storm, but in this case it just fell flat.

Reviews by Alex Hargreaves

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The Blurb

1969. The moon. A challenge to American ideas of exceptionalism, industry, ambition and the power of dreams. Soon there will be an American flag on her surface. Not 240,000 miles away, but on a secret sound stage on the west coast of the United States. Giant Leap is a fast talking, foul-mouthed comedy-drama in which a group of writers are tasked with creating the crowning line of their careers: Neil Armstrong's words as America fakes the 1969 moon landing. Writers: Mickey Down and Konrad Kay. Director: Alexander Lass. Starring comedians Tom Stade and Phil Nichol.

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