Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Or Much Ado About Nothing

The Waterside Theatre, Manchester College; Thursday 10th October, 2019

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“Hi, my name’s Caitlin Mollie Jane Marsh and tonight I’ll be playing the role of Ryan Lea”

From the very beginning, it was clear that Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Or Much Ado About Nothing was going to be wild. The programme notes hinted something strange was afoot, the introductions by the cast confirmed it: they were all going to be playing each other – not playing roles from *hakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing but actually playing each other.

So Sam was playing Keisha; Katie was being played by Elise whilst actually playing the role of Chloe; and then blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah.

It took less than a minute for the surreal influences of evil collaborators Figs In Wigs to blow away any hope of cogent rationality, all discernable notions of theatrical form just evaporated like some handsome butterfly fluttering away on a strong breeze, pushed away by uncontrollable forces yet somehow still able to look so damn good.

There was a butterfly on set actually, part of the scenery. A large, dissected butterfly – one half on each side of the stage, a pixelated, electronic kind of butterfly painted onto big boards. Throughout the show it was a constant and therefore welcoming presence, a warm reminder of bygone times (19:30 in the evening to be precise) – a golden age in which the audience was able to fondly remember who they actually were and what life meant.

The descent into theatrical phantasmagoricality was both rapid and intense. The nine final-year students of The Arden School Of Theatre presented themselves as an astonishing visual spectacle: robot-like performers dressed in garish orange wigs; caterpillar-like fake blue eyebrows; and baggy orange radiation suits with matching orange shoes. Their visual presence on stage was always striking and curiously intriguing – the mind was drawn into erotic visions of what The Smurfs might look like after a holiday in the basement of Chernobyl Reactor #4.

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Figure 1 – The cast introducing themselves at the start of the show and explaining who’s playing who – the least complicated part of proceedings.

 

Their cabaret-esque performance was outstanding. First up was a special episode of popular Channel 4 daytime pensioner-porno Countdown, complete with the 30-second ticking clock thing to elicit gasps of mild excitement. It turned into a dance, an absolutely irresistible electro-funk words game, one where the cast of nine re-arranged themselves to reveal powerful words / phrases such as 

  • donut lino 
  • penis town 
  • solid cunt

It was a thing of beauty to watch, like a nine-person Rubik’s cube solving itself; or perhaps more like the blocks in Tetris moving around frantically before satisfyingly and pleasingly settling on crude expressions of maximum vulgarity.

The eyes may just have been seeing consonants and vowels, but the mind was in some sort of indescribable state of abstract suspension, you could smell the uncertainty in the air.

Relief came in the form of musical interludes: a rendition of Jump by Van Halen played only with the toes; and a beginners course in playing the mandolin by Katie, who was being played by Elise who was actually being played by blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

 

Blah

Suddenly there was a moment of clarity. Up popped a video on the back wall: the opening scenes of Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. It took about forty-five minutes to get there but it appeared that the show was beginning to turn into an actual *hakespeare adaptation with people showing emotions and stuff like that. 

Mercifully, this didn’t become another pointless attempt to resurrect a 400-year-old play about some tossers from back in the day. That dreadful outcome was skilfully avoided by the introduction of a dance scene where a herd of highly sexualised horses twerked it and worked it to Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road.

I am not making this up.

The finale was a deeply moving affair. A memorial was conducted in remembrance of three handsome butterflies that passed away during rehearsals, all three of them were tragically killed after being ingested by an electric fan. At this point less caring members of the audience saw fit to express amusement at the loss, but after an hour of cerebral gymnastics the notion of death presented itself as a welcoming come-down, a safe and acceptably familiar way to return to the real world.

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Or Much Ado About Nothing is a phenomenal adventure through the wild landscape of performance art – an exhilarating (sexy) horse ride across the unfamiliar plains of meta-logical impressionism. Ultimately, it might well just boil down to a simple case of much ado about nothing – but it sure is good fun to watch.

 

https://www.figsinwigs.com/

https://www.thearden.co.uk/about/

 

Summary

Performance aspect Comments Score
Visual pleasure Top-notch choreography throughout the show and excellent use of videos on the back wall, all held together with the razzmatazz of big-show lighting. 5
Auditory pleasure Beautiful musical production, the Figs In Wigs style is so distinctive and evocative, like a pet dog that comes running with its tail wagging. There’s something about the ~65 bpm pacing that is just so infuriatingly irresistible. 5
Architecture & Theme Classic Figs In Wigs formula of sketch-based exposition. Jumped around all over the place in terms of subjects and themes but somehow managed to (just about) maintain fathomabilitiness. 4
Artistic delivery Nine outstanding performances, which all reached their zenith during the devastating eulogies that were delivered for the handsome butterflies who sadly passed during rehearsals – no idea how they managed to keep a straight face through that. 5
Overall impact It is entertainment, but not as we know it. It’s all a bit silly really, some might say it’s much ado about nothing, but then they haven’t seen a sexy horse shake its booty like it wants to be your Boo Boo. 4
Final Score: 4.6

 

Scoring Scheme

0 Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse
1 Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor
2 Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special
3 Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way
4 Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive
5 Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.

 

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