Romance with a Double Bass

It is UWE Drama Society’s last show of the Fringe. It is my last show of the Fringe. It is most of the audience’s last show of the Fringe. Collectively, we’re hoping for a fitting finale to a fine month’s entertainment. Collectively, we’re in for a disappointment.Based on Anton Chekhov’s short story, Romance with a Double Bass details the burgeoning romance between a princess and a hapless musician. Smychkov and the princess’s serendipitous relationship blossoms after the pair take a dip in the river, unaware of the other’s propinquity. They are equally unaware of the proximity of a clothes-swiping scoundrel who lurks on the riverbank. Naked, and with only a bass case to protect their modesty, the two must find their way back to the castle; the princess to partake in her nuptials; Smychkov to play in the wedding band.Romance with a Double Bass is a quirky, charming tale. Sadly, this adaptation of it has all the charm of a vomit-splattered hen party. The production gets off to an inauspicious start, with the palace servant somehow contriving to sweep the stage louder than the protagonists can talk. Things don’t get any better from there. The cast, who are afflicted by a paucity of spacial awareness and stage etiquette, spend the next 40 minutes talking over one another, crashing props into the lighting rig and doing everything in their power to sabotage what intrinsically is a sweet, affecting play. Smychkov is especially endearing, his bumbling manner and comical facial expressions almost enough to carry the show. Almost, but not quite. Several of the peripheral actors are as wooden as the double bass that is repeatedly bashed about the stage. It certainly puts the ‘amateur’ into amateur theatre. The producers appear to have realised that muddled acting and pandemonium alone will not be enough to carry Romance with a Double Bass. As such, they have applied a masterstroke that ought to save this flagging production: the princess - wait for it - gets her breasts out. A lot. Normally, I’m all in favour of seeing some skin, but here it merely provides a convenient excuse for forgetting about the hammy acting and dwelling on other matters entirely.Eventually, the princess is coaxed into her wedding dress for all of two minutes in order to marry the creepy baron. (There are non-creepy barons out there, it’s worth noting; they just don’t appear in theatre.) Before you can utter the words ‘gratuitous nudity’ however, Smychkov is down to his kecks once again and the princess has exchanged her wedding outfit for her birthday one. I never thought I’d opine these words, but it has to be said: with less breasts and more composure, Romance with a Double Bass could have been really good. As it is, only a generous audience reaction saved it from a shameful two-stars. I presume the aristocratic areola must have been to their liking. My Fringe ended the way it began: by enduring a mediocre show. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing to write home about.

The Blurb

We bring you a new adaptation of the delightfully naughty Chekhov comedy 'Romance with a Double Bass'. The musician Smychkov finds himself concealing dignity and a princess in the case of his double bass.