EDINBURGH FRINGE REVIEW – An Afternoon of Playback Theatre

Sweet Grassmarket

12th August 2013

Posted on the British Theatre Guide


A small improv performance turns into what feels like a group therapy session with An Afternoon of Playback Theatre. 

Random Acts Theatre Company have a come up with a great concept for a Fringe production, whereby audience members hand over a stimulus for scenes from the murky depths of their life and the two actors and musician turn them  into a reality. However, where the small four person company is concerned their improvisation skills are just not well honed enough to maintain a cohesive and comedic show.

Tig Land, the compere, is by far the most comfortable in front of an audience, chatting as if everyone in the room is friends but maintaining the leadership skills necessary to move the show along. Her background in teenage charity work is very evident as she interrogates well without prying to much into people’s personal lives. However, her technique at gaining more audience participation through mini discussion and desperate silence is at times like clutching at straws.

Perhaps the most bizarre and definitely most unnecessary element in this underwhelming performance is the music created by Richard Brock. As each scene is brought to fruition the unsubtle tones of Brock’s multiple instruments create a backing track more likely to be heard in a primary school music class than on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe. His haphazard attempt at “I’ve Been Working in the Railroad” during a scene set at a railway station is cringeworthy to say the least.
The two performers (Helen Rogerson and Danielle Christopher) are definitely trying their best with the minimal improvisation knowledge they seem to have. Their use of physicality and facial expression is commendable but you cant help but feel the whole performance is slightly amateurish.

Overall, the production definitely has a purpose closer to therapy than to entertainment. A re-vamp of the production armed with Keith Johnstone’s book “Impro” and a clear aim on what their mission statement is would definitely turn An Afternoon of Playback Theatre into a delightful daytime crowd pleaser.

An Afternoon of Playback Theatre runs until the 17th August at Sweet Grassmarket.

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