Writers: The Company
Director: Ross Kelly
Reviewer: Brian Gorman
‘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 is 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 are 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’s 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 showcases Daniel Thackeray’s range as he evolves 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 has us in fits with every syllable he utters, every glassy-eyed stare, and his Welsh Norman Bates desperately seeking to impress Victoria May’s Janet Leigh, is 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), are a real hoot. The team also has Richard Barry’s testosterone-fuelled Russian character onboard, losing his cool when obsessing over the destruction of all tea related paraphernalia. More psychotic hilarity comes 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 is simply sublime. Daniel Thackeray is pitch perfect as the buttoned-up wretch, avoiding succumbing to his emotions, while Victoria May’s gentle everywoman tries vainly to elicit a human response. The two actors are superb in this supremely affecting, unsettling, and very human interchange. This is quality stuff indeed.
Reviewed on 3rd July 2017 | Image: Contributed