Oh, boy. I would love to know what the unsuspecting group of teenagers I sat amongst thought about this show. You guys looked terrified! It’s ok, it’s not real. It’s just a dark sketch show employing clown and physical theatre, with creative roots in Dadaism and Surrealist cinema. That’s not real blood.
Twisted Loaf are total sickos and it’s wonderful.
Half Baked and its creators Twisted Loaf (Nina Smith and Libby Northedge), winners of the Funny Women Award 2013, are not interested in compromise. Immediately there are challenges; the coherence level of some of the following pieces is suggested by Smith’s perplexing entrance, intimately clambering over everyone from a hatch behind the audience.
It is clear that Smith and Northedge are highly trained and experienced performers, and their background in physical theatre is clear. Smith is a wonderful clown: poised yet infused with ragdoll vulnerability, she is an unnerving mixture of the terrifying and the adorable. Her default persona is that of a kind of dim-witted, open-mouthed Mrs Doyle, a useless but lovably degenerate sidekick. Northedge’s is a stately, bedraggled Cruella de Vil character. Both can open up and transform into highly realised characters, using voice as well as movement to conjure up the horsey posho, the council estate gossip. Theirs is an extremely brave and captivating chemistry.
However, it’s Northedge that deals with most of the more ‘real’ characters here. In what could be a stand out sketch of this year’s Fringe, a Scouse carer reveals a deeply disturbing relationship with her ‘envegetabled’ client. The boundaries are tested and tested again, then broken (I’m a sick person, and I blushed something awful). Smith and Northedge’s method is to choose an archetype, and explode it. The more you think about these pieces, the more their intelligence is revealed.
Twisted Loaf are total sickos and it’s wonderful. But it’s clear that this show will alienate a lot of people. I would estimate seventy per cent of people randomly encountering Half Baked would leave without a clue as to what just happened, but taking the risk with this show is essential. I suggest you see it (you really must), and discover what percentage you fall in yourself.