conceived by Hayley Carmichael and Paul Hunter created by the company.

Barbican Theatre (The Pit) Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 14 May.
7.45pm Mat Sat 3pm. (no performance 2 May).
Audio-described 14 May 3pm.
TICKETS: 0845 120 7550.

then Pavilion Theatre 29 New Road Brighton BN1 1UG 17-21 May 2011.
TICKETS: 01273 709709.

Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 April.

Inventive humour reaching unlikely places.
Five years ago Paul Hunter, this show’s director and co-conceiver, was responsible for an acute and lively revival of Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre. The production, which began with Hunter’s inspired visual addition of the anarchic Maniac rising through a waste-bin of shredded documents in a play which ends with a bomb set to explode, seems to have stayed with him.

For now, his company Told By An Idiot presents this mix of anarchists and theatrical anarchy. The jokey invention occasionally risks defusing the tension of the bomb-plots, but mainly the unlikely match of material and method, and the quality of invention make their point – in exactly the opposite way from Bertolt Brecht’s most hardline political drama, which is worked into the show.

There’s serious intent behind the humour, from the opening Hitchcock-related music (the humorous Gounod tune that introduced Hitch’s TV series and Bernard Herrmann’s scarifying shower-bath strings from Psycho), the irrelevant Lone Ranger joke which begets the show’s attention-grabbing if hardly pointed title, and the subsequent references, via Hitchcock’s Sabotage to Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent.

Alongside these there’s Gunter Grass and – most surprisingly – 1970s TV sitcom, Are You Being Served?. Its setting, Grace Brothers department store, is internationalised (and given a centuries-long history in the time-leaping action) allowing the series’ camp and innuendo to be doubly distanced, by being spoken in German, and (a device used repeatedly) by having sometimes frenetically-mimed conversations being spoken by different actors through microphones at the side of the stage.

The mix of comic resolution – a band of kidnapped performers singing their repertoire so relentlessly their captors kill themselves – and serious – a boy entrusted with planting what he doesn’t know is a bomb in Grace Brothers being killed when diverting to watch Bugs Bunny – makes a telling point about a dual response to terrorists, depending on whether their devices have worked.

Nick Haverson puts in a virtuoso comic performance, as does Bettrys Jones, animated as this innocent, impulsive lad among other excellent incarnations, in an exemplary cast – two of them survivors of Bolton’s Accidental Death.

Cast: Nick Haverson (3-7 May)/Javier Marzan (9-14 May), Bettrys Jones, Martin Hyder, Annie Fitzmaurice, Jane Guernier.

Director: Paul Hunter.
Designer: Sophia Clist.
Lighting: Natasha Chivers.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.
Associate director: Hayley Carmichael.
Assistant director: Justin Audibert.

2011-05-02 00:35:49

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