zazU: A Fête Worse Than Death

Fri 7th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Laurie Atkinson

at 09:16 on 10th Aug 2015

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With a hearty “G'mu!" and a manic Boy Scout grin, zazU invites us to follow their rogue bumble-bee for a second year of village life eccentricity. Harrie Hayes, Tom Machell, Nick Read and Maddie Rice plumb the Women's Institute quiche of the surreal to provide an evening of relentless unpredictability but reliable fun.

Preparations for the zazU fête are well underway, but the committee of elders are in terror of the Bobheads and their illegal shanty singing. It is perhaps best not to take Zazu's diligent attention to the details of their comedy otherworld (apparently meriting its own website) too seriously. The conceit serves its purpose to keep in motion a veritable tombola of weird and wonderful personalities: DCI Bastard, Timmy Spittletongue, a Man with a Fringe – essentially a character led sketch show, but irresistible to an audience with a few ginger and honeys inside them. It is a world that the performers of zazU Theatre Group guard jealously; the customary attempts at audience participation are rebuffed with an impenetrable cheeriness where improvisation would perhaps be more entertaining. The W1A style voiceover also has a tendency to sound a little too pleased with its own wackiness, though this is only an infrequent detraction from an otherwise consistently self-aware comedy.

The rejuvenation of a previous year's absurd spontaneity is always in danger of seeming strained. Many of zazU's characters are reprisals of 2014's Fringe success, though at present the format is still far from feeling stagnant or contrived. There are a number of scenes – an orthopaedic brothel in a world that forbids foot exposure, Dom and Don's Deli Takeaway ("Do you de-liver?" "No, just chicken and ham") – that fulfil the potential promised by so many of the Fringe's 'surreal' comedy programmes. Harrie Hayes too deserves particular praise for her masterclass in mumbling, and physical transformations from Bobhead, to Boy Scout, to Orthopaedia, the bunioned beguiler (even Bastard couldn't resist a grin).

For the most part, this is an intelligent show that amuses, but never quite brings tears to the eyes. zazU Theatre Group possesses an enthusiasm that is a pleasure to watch, and a chemistry always able to draw the funny from the far-fetched. A worthy entry into the zazUvian annuals.

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Izzie Fernandes

at 09:20 on 10th Aug 2015

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From the sublime to the ridiculous, the zazU quartet (Harrie Hayes, Tom Machell, Nick Read and Maddie Rice) brought to life the epic adventures and preparations of a village fete gone wild. Confronted by a set abundant with bunting and wellington boots, I felt as if I’d landed in an episode of The Archers, (tea and scone will be served imminently, I thought to myself).

The comic edge to this traditional and idyllic village setting was a playful delight. With a combination of precise physical and verbal witticisms, this performance was fresh and heart-warmingly humorous. With particular displays of versatility from Hayes (whose plummy, interfering Isla was surely Ambridge, born and bred) and Machell, whose sadistic Boy Scout persona bore delightful contrast with his angelic signing voice, the cast kept the audience on their toes for the hour’s duration.

Of all that I have seen at the Fringe so far, it was here at Peasant’s Court that I encountered the most eclectic range of eccentrics yet. This was comedy but with a definite and elaborate plot line intricately threaded through it. The wacky and the bohemian met the Women’s Institute in the trials and tribulations which arose through efforts to prevent an impending terrorist attack from the singing addicts. There was a threat to the fate of the fête.

The hilarious machinations which unfolded on stage involved a classist and sadistic boy scout and some medical professionals, whose one ailment policy disallowed the father of new twins to claim them both. It didn’t stop there, some unidentifiable European tourists with incredible capacity to take photos, Dom and Don – a pair of forty year old’s undergoing a mid-life crisis – and a phony spirit finder with a spiteful streak.

Totally non predictable in its pace and unpredictable direction, this was stylish and bizarre throughout. A unique scene change incorporating a fringed man, some questionable hip rotations and a plate of quiche cut with his bare hand was testament to how these ludicrously invented village qualms led to belly laughs from the audience. This is not to say that this was not also punctuated by lovely moments of theatrical talent. A beautifully harmonized rendition of ‘What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor’ undoubtedly proved the professionalism and comic talent of the zazU quartet.

Once police, guns and the final touches to the tombola were added into the equation, there was not one audience member who wasn’t deeply amused. If you’re down for a laugh and a satire of the British countryside, this comedy has character. If police hats, backwards glasses and cat purses don’t sell it, zazU quartet’s own site opens the delightful history of zazU and this alone will make it difficult to justify arriving late to this fête.

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