Cheese-Badger presents... Midge (a Two-Man Musical)

Thu 9th – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Jenni Reid

at 11:04 on 19th Aug 2012

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As eccentric as the name would suggest, ‘Midge (a Two Man Musical)’ tells the original and bizarre story of Midge (Tom Ovens), recently orphaned and sent to live with his mad, narcissistic, scheming Uncle Clive (Frank Paul). Both also play a range of supporting roles through the use of various wigs and props, and provide their own soundtrack on guitar and balalaika. Musical numbers pop up frequently – however somewhat awkwardly. The plot becomes progressively more elaborate and ridiculous until it culminates in a rousing number in which two young lovers liken themselves to bowls of semolina; the musical elements of the show are definitely the most enjoyable. ‘Midge’ just about manages to remain the right side of quirky, and Ovens and Paul are enjoyable to watch – yet it lacks any significant comedic punch.

The two are clearly confident on stage, with booming vocals and extremely enthused deliveries. But whilst it could have made it more effective, the small venue in fact sometimes made this enthusiasm a little overbearing; it was sometimes slightly too loud, and too keenly performed, to the detriment of the humour. Often lines seemed better written than they were delivered: I found myself thinking things were funny or clever, but too rarely did this translate into an actual laugh. Luckily, despite the small audience and absent laughs at certain moments, the performance never became awkward to watch, a testament to the ability of Ovens and Paul to hold the stage for an hour.

The music was certainly the stand-out point of the show, with some really lovely melodies to be found beneath the wacky lyrics. Both men were skilled musicians, even if they did not seem as natural and at-ease with their instruments as they could have while playing. Although understandable, occasional furrowed brows of extreme concentration made me seem less comfortable that all would go off without a hitch than I should have been in a production which was clearly well-rehearsed.

‘Cheese-Badger presents… Midge (a Two Man Musical)’ epitomises the eccentricity that the free fringe is, and should be, all about. Its originality is in fantastical storytelling rather than anything truly surprising, and the humour is underwhelming. However watching it is still an enjoyable experience, and it has clearly been crafted with care and attention to detail.

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Helena Blackstone

at 13:13 on 19th Aug 2012

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This is a two-man musical in which both men play all the music throughout, while performing the story. From the subversive title the humour follows accordingly: the balailaka (a three-stringed triangular guitarish thing) becomes a little ridiculous at times with its tiny ineffectual tinkling, especially alongside Tom Ovens’s strong guitar playing. The humour is intricately woven in such a meaningless manner as to becomes so entirely ridiculous that it constitues entertainment. For instance, my personal favourite plot thread starts at the beginning of the show with a skit in song about a tragic car crash killing Midge’s parents, which came about through the stubborn assumption that a Roman road will always be straight.

From this point in, the extreme phobia that Midge develops of all things Roman (Caesar salads, Roman Abramovich...) is a major fuel for the plot, and his only hope is in Clive the evil scientist’s lacking knowledge of lettuce species. The grand finale is a song involving Midge and his girlfriend June (also played by Frank Paul) expressing the beauty of their love through the enchanting metaphor of having semolina in their souls.

Ovens is a hilariously soul-felt Midge and Frank Paul’s rendition of the crazed old scientist is spot on. It was a small shame that the one who did most of the singing - Frank Paul - was slightly flat in much of his songs, but this isn’t a huge complaint.

Paul and Ovens have created an absurd, and somehow heartwarming story, somewhat along the lines of a 'Flight of the Concords' style humour of the moment, wherein the characters present themselves as incredibly downtrodden, and in fact quite depressingly alone. This production isn’t anything mind-blowing. It won’t change anything about how you see the world, but it is good fun for a midday chortle at nothing in particular.

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