Mark Kavanagh’s new laugh-a-minute play, Mad North-North-West, has hit the Camden Fringe with a bang! Set in a rehearsal room for an up-coming production of Hamlet, ‘William H. Bonny’ (Mark Kavanagh), a hitman posing as an actor and ‘Basildon Tate’ (Elliott Tiney), an actual actor whose real name is Timmy, play out a waiting game and endure each other’s company in the meantime, as Bonny holds out for the all clear to carry out his hit on the unsuspecting Tate.
Without doubt an hilarious and highly entertaining production.
The characters are ideal sitcom material – the straight-laced, no nonsense hardened killer versus the energetic, enthusiastic and dramatic actor – so as soon as Basildon enters, we’re laughing. The humour comes in various styles and guises, from Bonny attempting to fool Tate into believe he’s an actor and Tate’s regimes in his rehearsal warm-ups, to a farcical chase with dropped trousers of which the likes of Benny Hill and Robin Askwith would be proud. The gags and laughs are plentiful, clever, silly and brilliantly delivered by both actors.
Elliott Tiney gives a fantastic comedy performance, getting the best out of every joke and shows his expertise in the genre from his success with comedy sketch troupe Idiots of Ants and his solo stand-up act. Despite Basildon Tate being a highly-strung actor, who likes to have rules and respect for the rehearsal space and has childish strops when Bonny breaks them, we grow to like him and side with him.
Mark Kavanagh is excellent in finding the right balance between the tough killer and the comical absurdity. It would be easy to simply dislike Bonny, a murdering, heartless gunman, but Kavanagh gives him a vulnerability, softness and just enough endearing qualities to make the character really work well. Together, the duo is a great pairing and bounce off each other extremely well with superb rapport and some lovely physical comedy. The to-and-fros of control, the game of one-upmanship, are well written and magnificent to watch.
The storyline and script, from this first ever performance of the play, does need a little tightening and cutting in areas. A moment where the two stand off, arguing the morals of Bonny’s employment and earnings seemed to drag and the comedy dipped, there were a few too many ‘cock jokes’ and some comic moments may be missed by those with no theatrical connection - a quote from Stanislavski, references to Shakespearean plays and characters, and actors’ habits, for example. However, teething problems are inevitable from a play’s premiere outing and will, performance to performance, be improved upon and it is without doubt an hilarious and highly entertaining production nevertheless.
Basildon Tate says in one of his tantrums, “You would not get this at The National”, but Mad North-North-West will be a certain success wherever it goes.