The O.S. Map Fan Club

On paper – cartographical paper by preference – this is the sort of show that is the heart of fringe theatre. A quirky, solo performance with dozens of slightly Blue Peteresque props and a niche theme. The room was so busy that extra chairs had to be commandeered. Helen Woods stands, in functional fleece and rucksack, ready to provide the audience with Kendal Mint Cake and guide us on a virtual walk in the countryside. There is a buzz of expectation as she unveils a huge annotated map. I really like maps. I really like comedy. I really, truly, desperately wanted to love this show but what followed left me bemused and slightly bored.

This is a well meaning ramble through an hour with a lot of heart.

Woods uses a route on the map and photo props to tell disparate stories of her own life and love of maps alongside the history of the Ordnance Survey. She delivers earnestly, but awkwardly, and while she often attempts to involve the audience, many of the interactions fall flat and are swiftly abandoned. The narrative lacked purpose and there seemed to be no uniform style to the show. We had: demonically lit pseudo-horror, Jam and Jerusalem poetry, 70s suburban anecdotes and some unfortunately clumsy character skits in wigs. The main issue with the show is it is difficult to tell how self aware this all is. If it is intended as cringe comedy in the style of The Office it needs to be a lot sharper and to be delivered with more panache. If it is a straightforward celebration of cartography with some funny stories then the stories need to be funnier. There are moments to be enjoyed though, the poetry is rather good and I loved the final five minutes. What is there not to love about a giant paper crane made from a map?

This is a well meaning ramble through an hour, with a lot of heart, but it drifts aimlessly and is in sore need of a compass to go with the map. You do get a free badge though so…

Reviews by Julia French

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The Blurb

Join Ordnance Survey enthusiast, Helen Wood, for a humorous exploration of the much-loved, fold-out, paper map. Take a fascinating, laughter-filled, virtual ramble with Explorer map 168, and celebrate the simple beauty of Britain’s inspiring national treasure. O.S. fanatics, O.S. curious and O.S sceptics are all welcome at the O.S. Map Fan Club. Edinburgh Fringe sell-out in 2017. "Warm and engaging ... fun and touching." **** (West End Wilma) "Joyful, friendly show steeped in ‘Great British Bake Off’ values" (ThreeWeeks)