Writer: Nick Walker
Director: Katy Stephens
Reviewer: Nicole Craft
‘Please be reassured that tonight we will not be rationing the jokes!’
This is the promise on the flyer for this year’s ‘alternative pantomime’ offering from Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre which, over the last six years, has made the ‘anti-panto’ a recurring event in its festive calendar. Some of the previous efforts haven’t quite hit the mark but with last year’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Sisters upping the game ever so slightly, and the blurb for Over the Top hinting at promise, there is hope Nick Walker might wander out of No Man’s Land to bring comedy to the front line while marking WWI’s centenary year.
A jumpy start certainly serves its purpose of grabbing the audience’s attention and we find ourselves laughing at our own reactions for a moment – sadly though, this proves to be the biggest laugh of the evening by a fair margin with everything else falling completely flat.
The gags are indeed ‘groan-worthy’ and come thick and fast throughout; poor puns can often work if executed well enough but, whether a fault of acting or direction – it’s hard to tell – the timing is wrong and the rapport between the four actors non-existent. None of them seems comfortable in any of their many roles or indeed able to adequately distinguish between them, and the combination of all of this extinguishes any sparks of humour in Walker’s script.
The silent movie-esque scene does at least raise a few smiles and the ending attempts to bring a bit of emotion to proceedings – reminding us of the efforts people went to in order to find spirit in harder times – but it’s all too little too late to truly save the day.
Over the Top ultimately leaves you with the feeling that you must have missed something and many look around at the reactions of others for possible answers as they exit, only to find equally baffled expressions on the faces of those looking back. The plot is both thin and confusing in equal measures, the jokes are badly told and the intended message is lost. A totally misguided production that really should have been left in the crump-hole.
Runs Until 29 December 2018 | Image: Robert Day