Writers : Howard Coggins and Stu McLoughlin
Director : Craig Edwards
Reviewer : Joan Phillips
Living Spit return to the stage with their new production, Frankenstein, co-produced by Salisbury Playhouse
Only three years ago this hugely talented duo were playing in the cellars at Bristol Old Vic in front of a tiny audience. With a combination of bad props, hilarious anachronisms, dreadful puns and fantastic songs, their Adolf and Winston was one of the comic highlights of the year. At the time it was hoped that all that would change was the size of the audience. Only a few years later they are performing in front of a packed house at the Salisbury Playhouse.
Written by Coggins and McLoughlin, this version of Frankenstein follows Mary Shelley’s original rather than the movie versions made famous by Boris Karloff or Gene Wilder. Coggins and McLoughlin again play silly versions of themselves but gone are the jokes about down-at-heel actors, unable to get a break. In this production, our extremely likeable duo fumble their way through velvet curtains onto the front of stage in dinner jackets, less the shabby Steptoe and Son, and more the polish of Morecambe and Wise.
The short, round, bald Coggins plays the part of Victor Frankenstein and the tall, thin McLoughlin, with a body that naturally looks like it is made of parts from many people, of course, plays The Creature. Unusually for the part, McLoughlin plays his role with no make-up, scars or stitching, making the constant references to his physical fit for the role all the more comic. He also plays the female roles as well. So one actor plays a tortured genius, and the other still likes to wear dresses – not too much has changed.
Taking a departure from previous shows the likeable duo are accompanied on stage throughout by four talented musicians; Rebekah Hughes, Tom Knott, Lauryn Redding and Mike Slader. This gives extra power to the music side of the production, always a strong feature of Living Spit’s productions, and frees the guys up to pushing the main storyline while still falling on their own musical talents at key moments.
Living Spit manages to put together some great rock moments with some very silly lyrics. The graveyard references to ‘you stole my heart – literally’ and being ‘torn apart’ are very funny.
However, the sound balance between the two main characters and the band too often overwhelmed the singers, meaning many of the lyrics are missed, which is a shame as this is undoubtedly one of Living Spit’s main strengths.
Despite the musical highlights, this production feels too thinly spread. Between the better musical moments, the pair haven’t managed to come up with enough material for a full-length show. There are too many drawn out scenes and repeated jokes making the whole feel rather lacking in pace. In addition, the self-referencing jokes, which can be very much part of the charm when they get it right, are in danger of being over played in this production.
Michael Vale’s set is a huge backdrop with Frankenstein written in huge letters in ghoulish red across the entire back of the stage. Props are variously wheeled or carried on as part of the action. One of the funniest visual gags is the marital bed. This alone gives the duo scope for humour on their honeymoon night but the bed then rotates into a revolving backdrop for the big chase between our modern Prometheus and his creation which is very funny. It would be good to see more moments like this.
Runs until 5 November 2016, then tours | Image: The Other Richard