Saul Boyer explodes on stage, a blast of energy and vigorous vocals, as he delights us with a punchy song about being a Jew. "I’ve got neuroses, I put it down to Moses", Boyer sings which, accompanied by a dynamic dance, works the room into a frenzy.
A fantastically intricate diatribe on the futility of running away from everything that’s destined for you
Boyer and co-star Edie Newman launch into this edgy satire on jewish politics, a heady combination of absurdist comedy, deadpan simulation and occasional song thick with relentless jewish based humour. The story is built around Max and TJ, who commence the performance seeking couples counselling. As they navigate irreconcilable differences which split them up – an unfortunate incident of erotic asphyxiation; a spoilt best mans speech and disastrous hotel room antics – they find themselves inextricably drawn to each other. This could be the result of his granny’s curse, or it could just be that they’re meant to be together.
Unleash the Llama presents this charming and clever insight into the life of a man craving freedom from the shackles of inherited trauma, juxtaposed with his partner who craves the stability and security of a large family and set of beliefs. Their relationship is incredibly unorthodox – Max is a struggling comic, and TJ is a gender neutral freudian manatee burlesque performer. They met via a polyamory group at Uni, and since then have been carried away in a wanton life of excess. He’s a self hating jew, and she’s apparently learnt this guilt from him.
The interplay between Boyer and Newman is electric, and the audience feed off their combined energy. This is a fantastically intricate diatribe on the futility of running away from everything that’s destined for you. Some of the material is fairly niche, though it’s clear that even without a grain of knowledge on the history of judaism, UK politics, Palestine and Israel, there’s still plenty to relate to. The show is billed as theatre, rather than comedy – though could easily fit into either genre.
The concept behind this piece is innovative, though one gets the sense that attempts to make it as cutting edge as can be somewhat detract from other elements of it. To firmly cement it as a piece of theatre, it would be interesting to tease out more about how the couple met, and how they navigated a polyamorous relationship. The comedic moments are a delightful interlude, though at times they’re so absurdist in nature that they do lift it out of the theatrical landscape and firmly plant it in the comedy sphere. It’s plausible that a performance can sit somewhere in the middle – however I felt I left wanting more. This is a compliment in itself, I want to hear more about Max and TJ because I’ve become emotionally invested in them - a skill artfully achieved by Boyer and Newman. And I feel compromised because I’ve enjoyed the humour, despite knowing that it’s detracting somewhat from the fuller story.
A little more work will elevate this performance substantially, as Boyer and co-writer Poppy Damon have developed an original concept and possess the talent to take it as far as they wish to.