Number, Please

Aug 15 2019 | By More

★★★★☆    Pleasingly farcical

Paradise in Augustines (Venue 152): Sat 3– Sun 25 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Number, Please by Paprichoo at Paradise in Augustines leaves no stone unturned in its pursuit of comedy.

Playing around with the tropes of film noir and Hitchcockian drama, with femme fatales, shadowy agents and ordinary people caught up in plots, it features a switchboard operator in post-war London who overhears a message that catapults her into a world of espionage, nuclear secrets and double-dealing.

Olivia Thom and Lauren Robinson. Pic: Andrew Perry

There are definite touches of Patrick Barlow’s version of The 39 Steps – a Hitchcock homage with a determinedly low-budget, recalcitrant props, and all manner of meta-theatrical, knowing winks to the audience. The heart does sink a little as the silliness starts, but it soon becomes clear that the cast know what they are doing, and every possible opportunity for humour is going to be exploited.

The use of a female central character who drives the story rather than waiting around for men to save her is a refreshing one for the genre and setting, and Lauren Robinson’s portrayal of Sheila is just knowing enough to still be grounded in some kind of reality. This is a deceptively complex performance, achieving a difficult balancing act with some aplomb.

gleefully silly

Olivia Thom and Georgie Carey both also display the right combination of meta self-awareness and immersion in the story, while Nathan Robertson is gleefully silly.

Lauren Robinson, Max Prentice and Tom Hindle. Pic: Andrew Perry

Tom Hindle’s timing is spot on – he is one of the few who actually plays two roles, rather than just one character who may not be what they seem. Max Prentice is a performer of great comic potential, and achieves a pleasing rapport with the audience.

Becca Chadder’s script is tightly constructed, and her direction authoritative. There are moments where it threatens to tip over into self-indulgence, and some of the physical sequences need to be just a little more controlled. The temptation to overuse devices such as running on the spot needs to be overcome.

It is interesting to see devices that the likes of Barlow clearly took from Fringe theatre being taken back again in a show that has no shortage of confidence. Not least, it has the confidence to be supremely silly, which makes for an enjoyable production.

Running time: 45 minutes (no interval)
Paradise in Augustines, 41 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EL (Venue152)
Saturday 3 – Sunday 25 August 2019
Daily (not Sun 11 or 18) at 4.50 pm
Tickets and details:
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Max Prentice and Lauren Robinson. Pic: Andrew Perry


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