Desperately Seeking The Exit/Timpson, The Musical (#30plays30days – 5)

Desperately Seeking The Exit/Timpson, The Musical (#30plays30days – 5)

By way of celebrating this, my 100th post on this blog, and the fact that one of my latest posts has exceeded all expectations in terms of interest (40+ Reasons To Stay In) – not to mention the fact that I’ve now managed the first five entries for #30plays30days without a hitch (ahem) – I thought I’d go for a double header with this latest addition. Not one but two online shows to review and one of those my first experience of a live streamed play.

30 5This latter was entitled Desperately Seeking The Exit. a monologue play written and performed by American, but Anglophile, Peter Michael Marino. It tells the story of the writing, pitching, rehearsing and performing of his musical Desperately Seeking Susan which opened at the Novello Theatre in 2007….and closed just one month later after some scathing reviews. Critic Charles Spencer wrote in The Daily Telegraph “I fear that Desperately Seeking Susan will leave most discerning theatregoers desperately seeking the nearest exit”. While it may have been a cruel summary, Marino was gifted with the title of his current piece.

DSS

The tale of his disaster musical is told chronologically with many an acerbic aside and some bursts of music from the soundtrack taken from Blondie’s back catalogue rather than, as might be expected Madonna’s. Marino is an engaging performer with a manic glint in his eye as he gamely recounts his story of showbiz life and his interactions with Debbie Harry as well as the original show’s director and cast. Although he claims to have a soft spot for the British he is clearly bemused by some of their more arcane practices and phrases such as “See you later” and “Are you alright?” but as most of the jokes he makes are reserved for himself this never proves offensive.

Of course, all this was being relayed through a computer camera via the Zoom platform. I’m not sure what sort of format was used in the original incarnation of the show before it had to move online but the performer in these circumstances literally has nowhere to hide. They cannot be backed up by an engaging stage set, dazzling costumes or focused lighting; rather they are thrown back on their basic tools – their face, their voice and their energy. Marino makes good use of facial expressions and his voice is clear and engaging (apart from some occasional mic issues…or that might have been my headphones). And there is no doubt that Marino exudes energy – I felt quite tired just watching him….or was that because showtime was midnight in the UK? Marino makes this an interesting piece, told in an interesting way via, for a first time experiment for me, an interesting medium.

My second show the same day, though many hours later, was the intriguing Timpson, The Musical. This was written by Sam Cochrane, Chris Baker, Theo Caplan and Tom Slade. It has been performed by Gigglemug around the UK, finishing at the Stockwell Theatre last year where it was recorded for posterity – and now facing a new lease of life as an online show. This is, as it says on the tin, the supposed origins story of the High Street shoe menders and key cutters – not an immediately obvious choice for a musical. Timpsons was, as the show portrays, founded in the Victorian era but that aside I think there was little else that concurred with reality. Notwithstanding, the company itself has gamely sponsored the production; MP Edward Timpson even puts in a cameo appearance.

The storyline borrows heavily from Romeo and Juliet – though it isn’t exactly West Side Story. Young Monty and Keyleigh (Robert Madge and Sabrina Miller) are at the centre of the plot. He’s invented the people flap (literally a cat flap for people) while she’s come up , rather more sensibly, with the padlock and key. But Mr Keypulet and Mrs Montashoe don’t approve and strive to keep their offspring apart. They have to overcome the opposition of their feuding families in order to triumph at the annual Invention Convention where the new firm of Timpsons is finally born.

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You might think from this description that the show is (to quote Monty Python) extremely silly – and you’d be right. The cast of six (including author Sam Cochrane) work their collective socks off, delivering some completely daft dialogue and belting out some pastiche show tunes. However, I’m afraid for this reviewer it was all a bit too “try hard”. I found much of the humour far too pleased with itself and dangerously close to being a stream of private jokes. An extended skit involving two fishermen communicating in a bastardized version of “Bill and Ben” language went on for far too long and there were a number of what I suppose were witty asides – though often the microphones failed to pick these up. The musical side provided more certain territory. The cast had a good sense of how to put the songs across and there were some strong singing voices on display (you can hear the soundtrack on Spotify here)

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To be fair I think the show would have gone down better had I been viewing it live. It was filmed quite well though I did have issues with sound quality here and there. However, It was the sort of piece where to properly enjoy and appreciate it, I needed to be in the midst of a responsive audience. Although the in theatre audience itself were clearly loving it, not being part of it myself just highlighted the show’s flaws – obviously missing the live experience in the current climate is starting to tell!

Desperately Seeking The Exit is performed at regular intervals – keep an eye out for details (www.seekingtheexit.com/desperately/DSE.html)

 Timpson: The Musical is available on You Tube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfzOOWCi8Ag)

For further online theatre suggestions and news of newly released productions please click here

4 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking The Exit/Timpson, The Musical (#30plays30days – 5)

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