This August, Durham-based Wrong Tree Theatre are bringing three shows to Edinburgh; currently on offer is
By the end of the play you will find yourself with a grudging respect for its lo-fi wackiness.
Souvenirs has multiple structural issues. More attention has been paid to individual scenes and set pieces than to the plot and consistency of the whole piece, which could be excused given that the play is so influenced by the form of sketch comedy. While the idea to loosely model the project around a sequence of sketches is strong, the segments are just too poorly integrated into the end result to be effective, leaving the structure of the performance with gaping plot holes. Pacing, notwithstanding the poor opening, is dealt with slightly more efficiently: a linear building of energy is managed well and grows fairly consistently from start to end.
Comedy is an important element of this Wrong Tree Adventure, but as with the structure we again have some problems. Many of the jokes are overly cheesy, audience interaction is unoriginal and the inclusion of animals mimed by bits of stationery is just not very funny (with the exception of two glorious tape-measure snails). But there are moments of inspiration too. Several scenes are raucously comic; particularly brilliant is the passage set in a port. An old sea captain is a terrific character, and is given a truly hilarious opening line. Outside the comedy, there are sparks of well-realised creativity. The decision to have one actor read all the lines for four plane passengers as they mime along to his words is excellent, and is evidence of the heights this production has the capability to reach.
Other than some dodgy accents, the cast are comfortable in their roles. Worth spotlighting are Angharad Phillips as the Professor, who gives a controlled and subtle performance, and Kieran Laurie who is the true comic heart of the project. The collaborative nature of the play is enjoyably clear to see – director Jazzy Price has led her team in devising the drama – with warm camaraderie visible between all members of the ensemble.
Silliness does not justify theatrical weakness. Yet even with the serious faults that run through Souvenirs, by the end of the play you will find yourself with a grudging respect for its lo-fi wackiness.