Chaotic, comical and self-aware, The Super Awesome Happy Fun-Time Trick Performance by Ben Webber is an absurdist piece of comedy that is reminiscent of meta-theatrical works such as The Play That Goes Wrong, where the boundaries of the set, the audience, and the characters themselves are constantly broken down.
Right from the start, the stage itself set up a sense of disorganization that underlined the rest of the play. The floor was littered with what seemed to be a random assortment of props, ranging from yoghurt containers to photo frames to a broom. As it turns out, however, these would become the tools for the performers’ various acts.
The play starts off strongly, with a stretched out silence that subverts audience expectations to humorous effect, complemented by the fact that there are no dimming of the house lights that typically signals the start of the show. Moments later, two of the performers come in, only to realize the presence of the expectant audience.
”The actors play themselves – or perhaps a more accurate way to put it is a version of themselves – each equipped with their own off-the-wall personalities and various tricks’’
From that point onwards, it becomes a no holds barred endeavour to keep the audience amused and entertained while awaiting the arrival of the last cast member. The actors play themselves – or perhaps a more accurate way to put it is a version of themselves – each equipped with their own off-the-wall personalities and various tricks (literally and figuratively) up their sleeves. Running gags (such as Charlotte Kirkman’s adopted status, Kate O’Gorman’s fondness for yoghurt, and a wonderfully absurd narrative about playing with a ball and meeting your younger self), besides being a reliable source of comedy, also contributes to the overall cohesion of the show.
”All the same, the show truly shines when the actors are interacting with and playing off one another, be it screaming expletives in someone’s face, struggling for the spotlight, or coming together for a dance or pose or magic trick’’
The performers on the whole keep things short and snappy, alternating between themselves to provide a show for the audience. Natalia Gonzales’ awkward, so-bad-it’s-good stand–up routine, as well as George Waring’s delightfully physical account of how his goldfish (fishes? fishi?) died, make up a few of these individual acts. All the same, the show truly shines when the actors are interacting with and playing off one another, be it screaming expletives in someone’s face, struggling for the spotlight, or coming together for a dance or pose or magic trick.
Audience interaction was a key element of the show as well, increasingly calling to attention the presence of those watching from their seats. This further generates some of the play’s highlights, such as Kirkman’s eye contact as she eats a banana, and Michaela Green’s frequent questions to the audience during her ‘magic trick’. Moreover, the involvement of the audience leads up smoothly to the ending scene where the entire crowd is confronted directly.
Additional noteworthy antics include an elaborate fabrication and a hilarious song on the ukulele by Louis Djalili, who manages to consolidate his character’s presence despite noticeably shorter stage time, as well as Waring’s short bursts of PSA-infomerical-type lines. On the other hand, the more tender moments, stemming from O’Gorman’s relationship with different actors, serve as a nice contrast from the routinely hostile interactions.
At some points in the show there are multiple things going on at once, which may be slightly disorientating for the viewer, and the physical abuse that Waring receives may end up feeling somewhat repetitive. However, these scenes did play their part in contributing to a principally disordered yet persuasive slapstick effect that makes this show such a stand-out, for which Jamie Watt and Maddy Strauss should be especially commended for.
”The play teases and disrupts audience expectations to great effect’’
With realistically under-prepared characters who enter and exit seemingly at will, the play teases and disrupts audience expectations to great effect. The final result is an exceptional comedy that does not claim itself to be a profound statement regarding the human condition (in fact the very idea is explicitly mocked), yet one which simultaneously prompts a gleeful examination of the relationship between the actors and the audience.
7/10 – Great show but room for improvement
Yee Heng Yeh
Image courtesy of the Nottingham New Theatre