Structuring a review is basically fairly straightforward. Say what you liked, what you didn’t like then sum up with your overall impression. Done. This approach will see you right for 99% of theatrical productions but there are some which resist such simplistic analysis. Then there’s Pretty When I’m Drunk.
This is a hard review to write because I’ve 500 words to fill and almost nothing I enjoyed. There isn’t a character who didn’t grate on my nerves (the exception being Big G who was merely a cardboard cutout cliché). The plot is an ill-conceived mess which goes from irritating to incoherent and finally, with a lazy ‘twist’ in the tale, infuriating. The ‘comedy’ script relies on the assumption that shouting something over and over makes it funny. It feels like a play that's fallen victim to the biggest trap of student theatre; written by friends, performed to friends and with no-one to say ‘no’ until it's far too late.
What really bothered me, though, was that it feels like a play that hates women. Two of the actresses are treated throughout as cleavages rather than characters, a particularly misogynistic scene having one, barely squeezed into costume, hold her boobs together in prolonged freeze-frame while the two male leads fiddle frantically with their crotches. The others are either bizarre and ill-judged racial stereotypes or screeching harpies. The female dialogue consists almost entirely of bitchy sniping and what parts of the play aren't shouting or snarking are pointless booty-shaking. (The male parts, by the way, are little better; irritating but not insulting)
You’ll doubtless think I’m being unreasonably harsh. I know Hard as Snails didn't set out to make a bad play. But I believe Fringe theatre is a chance for new talent to shine and, for many, it’s their best hope for discovery. Plays like Pretty When I’m Drunk create a perceived amateurism which keeps people away and costs other shows the audiences they deserve.
I should, in fairness, mention that the majority of the audience seemed to quite enjoy it and, given the rash of five-star audience reviews below, I am willing to concede that I might be missing something with this play. Therefore, I issue any readers a challenge. Check out the production company’s own blog, http://hardassnailsproductions.blogspot.co.uk, where you can find snippets from the script and a full nine-minute video of the scene highlighted above. Then you can judge for yourselves. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.