★★★★ | Never Try This At Home, Sheffield Crucible Studio, UK Tour
In this “disturbing homage to Saturday Morning television”, TV reunion show, “Looking Back Together” examines what ever happened to the cast of the anarchic TV show, Shushi, which was taken off air when things get out of hand and sexy “for the dads” presenter, Petra Massey, has a breakdown live on the show. As the peek behind the scenes reveals, not everything is well behind the custard pies and the buckets of water.
“Told by an Idiot” Theatre Company presents this very funny, dark comedy in an affectionate, tongue in cheek tribute to the time when Tiswas and Swap Shop ruled the Saturday morning airwaves. Crammed full of references and in-jokes to those halcyon days of children’s weekend entertainment, this chaotic, laugh out loud funny and refreshingly politically incorrect show was packed full of nostalgia. The references are easy enough to spot, and with everything covered from the custard pies, the ridiculous games (“kick a vicar” and “build a dog”) and a thinly disguised Noel Edmunds impersonation, very little escapes unscathed.
The show affectionately pokes fun at the style of TV shows of the 70’s and also a sly sideways swipe at the current crop of reunion shows. The format of the show is cleverly done, transforming the audience in the theatre into the audience of a recording of fictional TV show “Looking Back Together”, where clips of Shushi are played out (live on the stage) and the presenters are brought out and interviewed by a Jeremy Kyle tinged presenter. The TV show within a TV show format was original and worked well in the performance space.
As for the humour, the piece was dark in its comic tone, but very funny. Ranging from slapstick to silly and including a biting social commentary on the 1970’s attitudes to race, gender and sexuality. The show does have a number of jokes where you can’t help but think “did they really just say that”, but the humour stays in a similar vein, albeit at a good arm’s length away, to Sacha Baron-Cohen’s “Borat”.
The performances from the cast were full of energy and suitably silly, nicely parodying the presenting style of the time. The flares, wigs and catsuits fitted the show perfectly and with the amount of water, custard pies and baked beans flying around, the front row remained sensibly empty. The cast fully involved the audience and it was hard to tell at times what was rehearsed and what was improvised. The enjoyment of the cast in their performances was infectious and after the show’s 90 minutes running time, the presenters of “Shushi”, felt like old friends (in the same way that Simon Groom and John Noakes were back in the day).
The show was really good fun, especially for those who grew up in the 70’s and brought back many memories of wasted Saturday mornings. With the laughter ringing out from the audience throughout the show, it was clear to see that the satirical writing was a huge hit with them.
Never Try This At Home is currently playing at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre. Details and tickets can be found at http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/never-try-this-at-home-14/ .
The show then moves to Edinburgh and Soho.
Details can be found at http://www.toldbyanidiot.org/productions/never-try-home/