LoveHard: The House on the Hill – Old Joint Stock, Birmingham

Directors and Writers: Tyler Harding and Jacob Lovick

Reviewer: James Garrington

One of the great things about small fringe venues like the Old Joint Stock is that they can host productions that are simply not possible in larger venues as they would be too risky. The latest of these is comedy duo LoveHard’s The House on the Hill, being honed prior to appearing in Edinburgh this summer.

Running at around an hour, The House on the Hill is almost more an extended sketch than a play, part scripted and part improvised. An American family is moving into a house in a remote part of Scotland. The house seemingly has a spooky history, and the locals are far from welcoming to strangers too – but all the incomers want is to settle down and escape from their past. It’s a comedy ghost story, and the material is in some places very adult – it’s also whacky, off-the-wall and anarchic with some distinct echoes of the sort of thing you might have seen on television in Monty Python’s Flying Circus and similar sketch shows.

The duo, Jacob Lovick and Tyler Harding, play more than 30 characters between them, American and Scottish, young and old, male and female. If you’ve seen the recent stage version of The 39 Steps you’ll know the sort of thing – though here the different personalities are presented using only physicality and characterisation, rather than costume. The set is practically non-existent – just some boxes and lamps with the whole effect being created using some appropriate sound effects and the skills of the performers.

Harding and Lovick do what they do well, though the improvised comedy nature of the piece makes it difficult for them to keep their faces straight sometimes – but in many ways that adds to the enjoyment of the production, and makes the audience feel part of the joke. They certainly manage to clearly differentiate the large number of different characters they’re presenting, not an easy thing to do when you have no costume to fall back on.

It’s not going to set the world alight – but if you’re a fan of Monty Python, Not the Nine O’Clock News and Rik Mayall, and you come along prepared for material that some may find distasteful bordering on offensive, you’ll have a great time.

Madcap, anarchic, and very funny.

Reviewed on 10 June 2016 | Image: Contributed

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