The Shiny New Festival is currently showcasing a variety of Liverpool talent about to make its way up to the Edinburgh Fringe, hosting several hour-long shows each evening to give a flavour of the city’s talent. On Tuesday night I popped in to catch three new short plays – Bump, The Brief Afterlife of Reginald Tanner, and No Names, all produced under the Shiny New banner and directed by festival founder Pete Mitchelson, and followed that up last night with a catch up with musical comedians Jollyboat.
Bump is a new piece by Laura Kate Barrow, a graduate of the Playhouse’s young writers scheme, and the quality shows. The play has been accepted for Manchester’s 24:7 festival, where it heads after the Lantern. A subtle and endearing tale of two old classmates reunited by chance in a church, Louise (Sarah Keating) at first has little time for the clownish idiosyncrasies of Matt (Thomas Casson). But as they reveal more about their lives since graduation a firm – if somewhat unconventional – friendship takes hold.
A well-measured piece that is funny and moving, Bump proves a successful collaboration between director, writer and performers. Incidental details, like how Louise got her name or old school memories, shy away from cliche or needless exposition while fleshing out two solid and intriguing characters, and Keating and Casson are warm and charming together. Well worth a watch.
The Brief Afterlife of Reginald Tanner was a broad satire with lots of promise. Reginald (Alex Pardy) awakes in a strange place to find he has been brought back from the grave, an unwitting guinea pig in a new government initiative to privatise death. The necromancy is the work of NHS researcher Dr Ransom (Marie Westcott), who is about to present her test subject to the world in a press conference with the newly-appointed Minister of Mortality (Joel Whitall), accompanied by his savvy assistant (Josie Sedgewick-Davies). Held together by an absorbing performance from Pardy as the confused, bemused Reginald Tanner, Dave Griffiths’s play straddles old school British farce with political satire with mixed results. Some cartoonish plot holes detract from the intelligence of the premise, which had potential to be just as sharp and chilling as it was absurdly funny.
Joel Whitall and Josie Sedgewick-Davies returned for No Names by Liam Hale and David Alnwick, which will be performed at the Fringe as a double bill with Reginald Tanner. An Odd Couple-style comedy against the backdrop of a zombie invasion, when our brooding hero Steven hears a cry for help, will he take a risk and let a desperate stranger take refuge with him? Of course he does. Seemingly more of a work in progress than a fully fleshed out show, the character of uninvited guest Emma as it was written remained problematic throughout; a parody of a kooky, weak, idiotic female that made it a little hard to relate to the play as a whole.
Swiftly moving on, Jollyboat are one of a handful of comic acts previewing their one hour Edinburgh shows at Shiny New. Brothers Ed and Tommy Croft ‘s irresistible brand of geeky musical comedy is showing no sign of fatigue; their signature mash up of pop songs with a pirate twist is always funny (‘no rum and no eye’, as Bob Marley never sang), especially with some new material thrown in, and they still get a very genuine kick out of performing that is infectious. Newer material like their X Factor parody is much funnier live than on video, as their natural silliness and improv skills come across more clearly; and a brand new sketch imagining what Disney will do to the Star Wars franchise is daft as it is clever and adds a new dimension to their set. The Bo Burnam-esque Disney Princess rap continues this rather niche, bit rude, yet always comical theme, and Ed’s solo number about women in comedy is brilliant.
The kind of show that will have you laughing and smiling from start to finish, there’s few better ways to spend an hour than in their company, in Liverpool or anywhere else. Catch them again on Saturday night or throughout August in Edinburgh.