A Slackers Guide to Western Theatre, Chris Payne Production – Bedlam Theatre
There is something strangely familiar about a Slackers Guide to Western Theatre; it’s an unashamedly self-indulgent student show on the Edinburgh Fringe. At the risk of condescension, there is a part of me which is delighted that this type of production is still alive and well in 2010.
Slickly presented, this show takes us through the history of theatre in Western culture; from the Greeks to the present. Each period is interrogated with irreverence and intermittent distain. There is more than a passing nod to the hugely successful Reduced Shakespeare Company and their Abridged Complete Works. The highlight of the show is undoubtedly the Elizabethan Grand National. In spite of the occasionally pretentious script and smug digs at Am-Dram, this is a polished and well performed romp.
Perhaps it’s a sign of my own advancing years, but I am not provoked by the dismissal of several important genres: shouting ‘Chekov can f**k off!’ is hardly a ground breaking satirical comment on Naturalistic Theatre. Instead I find the arrogance behind it rather endearing. Self-referential and packed with ‘in’ jokes, the exclusive attitude does start to grate in places though.
On the whole the subject is rather well dealt with. There are some witty observations, although the final pontificating on the state of modern theatre should probably have been left in the pub. In truth there are no new ideas here, but there are some very funny gags and the five performers attack the material with gusto. The closing musical medley is also a rather tired gimmick, but there is probably enough in it to raise a smile. In many ways this kind of show is a staple of the Fringe and of its kind, this is a pretty good effort.
Bedlam Theatre, running until 28th August, 11.30am. Full price £7 concession £6.