Variety in the Factory

Tue 25th – Sat 29th October 2011

reviews

Levente Jakab

at 08:07 on 26th Oct 2011

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Despite the initial uncertainty the title evoked in me – Variety in the Factory – I am now able to confirm that this mode of entertainment can still strike its audience as genuine, professional and, not least, enjoyable.

Variety, a genre which since the 1960s-70s has lived mostly in late-night-shows broadcast on various TV-channels, returns to the actual theatrical stage. Undoubtedly, it is an interesting, though by no means undemanding project. But, the host (Goronwy Thom) and cast do not let us think about whether it is appropriate or old-fashioned to play a variety show in theatre. Once the show starts we are invited, or rather, ‘brought into a journey’ where our only guide is the above mentioned slightly fat “creature”.

On this journey we are not pressured to discover ourselves, nor will any deep, self-reflexive monologues be heard, and tragedy is only the starting point of even more fun. The light tone of the evening did not undermine the highly skilled performance. The audience was provided with almost all imaginable means of amusement, commencing with a slightly Monty Python-influenced film sketch. Throughout the entire show, there is an interplay of music with the different acts; the main contributor to this musical interplay was Robert Lee who accompanied all feats with skilled and polished improvisations on piano, accordion and anything else that might produce sound. The show also features circus acrobats (Richard Garaghty and Goronwy Thom), parody (Matt Barnard with his fascinating revival of the King), and even origami (which is produced by the always “serious” Jon Hicks).

The ensemble seems to be a bottomless pot in which all the talents, skills, wit and brilliance of its members melt together – and I am not just referring to the diversity of the show itself. No, I mean to attempt to describe the nature of the cast’s creative collaboration: their ways of producing art in twos, threes and fours. For me, this quality is invaluable – especially today, when theatregoers might be tired of the vast amount of one-man shows. This is a rich and unique performance by a cohesive group, not merely individuals. The sole exception may be the tail-coated magician who presents a rather strange game with several ping-pong balls in his mouth.

To conclude this short account of the variety that can be seen in the Tobacco Factory this week, I would like to point out that among the abundance of parody, sketches, asides, funny musical interludes, there remains one thing untouched: it is the basic, unalienable truth of what the theatre, this social venue, is all about. Entertainment. This most accomplished piece by Slightly Fat Features is committed to this ideal and this company’s constant attempts to grab it and put it before you produce some of the most compelling moments one can see on stage.

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