Written by the company
Directed by Ross Kelly
Gullivers, and various Greater Manchester venues throughout July to Nov
Review by Brian Gorman
Rating: 5 bright shining stars!
'Manchester's answer to the legendary Monty Python team' isn't too far off a legit description of this brand new comedy troupe; at least on the evidence of this (somewhat awkwardly titled) first outing, 'The Bandwiths of Balderdash'. Six local writer/actor/musicians make up The Faces At The Window (a wonderful team moniker, evoking the darkly humorous inspiration of The League Of Gentlemen). This was a superbly staged production, played in the style of a live radio show, taking full advantage of the atmospheric, and beautifully gothic environs of the upstairs of Gullivers pub on Oldham Street.
Any team needs a diversity of individuals who come together to create a formidable fighting force; think of The X-men. The Faces have their Wolverine, in the form of fruity-voiced leading man, Edward Barry. Then there's Professor X (eccentric Cleese-esque Daniel Thackeray), Phoenix (steely-eyed Victoria May), and The Beast is scary/cuddly Steve Cain. There's also musician Richard Barry (The Thing? I can't think of an appropriate X Man, but here's another Marvel super hero – big, a bit scary, but hilariously entertaining!), and director Ross Kelly (Quicksilver – you don't see him, but his fingerprints are on everything).
Any show that uses the classic theme from 70s tv series, Follyfoot, as an opener, is surely on to a winner. There's also snippets from classic radio shows, obscure sound effects, and even a funky version of the 1970s Sweeney film! But what about the meat? The sketches? Well, there was something for all tastes this evening (as long as your taste is for intelligent, surreal, often dark, and genuinely unsettling humour). A cracking spoof of those terrible 'Epic!! tv ads showcased Daniel Thackeray's range as he evolved from OTT voice-over artiste into terrifying psychotic mass murderer. The actor looks like your favourite, slightly bonkers uncle, but can turn on his inner Ronnie Kray to startling effect. Steve Cain had us in fits with every syllable he uttered, every glassy-eyed stare, and his Welsh Norman Bates desperately seeking to impress Victoria May's Janet Leigh, was a delicious highlight.
A band of inept super villains, with cringe worthy names including 'Puce Princess' (Victoria May playing her as a mix of Bonnie Langford and Miranda Hart, but with smouldering allure), were a real hoot. The team also had Richard Barry's testosterone-fuelled Russian character onboard, losing his cool when obsessing over the destruction of all tea related paraphernalia. More psychotic hilarity came from Edward Barry as a cocky, super slick salesman, demonstrating the prowess of his new electronic printer; failing spectacularly when the machine achieves consciousness, and proceeds to reduce him to a quivering wreck.
A sketch featuring a bereaved football comentator, desperately keeping his grief at bay by resorting to an endless array of warmed-up cliches was simply sublime. Daniel Thackeray was pitch perfect as the buttoned-up wretch, avoiding subcuumbing to his emotions, whilst Victoria May's gentle everywoman tried vainly to elicit a human response. The two actors were superb in this supremely affecting, unsettling, and very human interchange. This was quality stuff indeed.
Faces At The Window: The Bandwiths of Balderdash is a Lilaloka Production, with Hat Hair Productions and Scytheplays Ltd. The next performance will be at The King's Arms Theatre, Salford on Monday 17th July, followed by more dates later in the year.
A (slightly) edited version of this review was originally published at www.thereviewshub.com