“How many comics can make a few hundred people of all ages laugh consistently barely uttering a word.”
For all the flyering and social media that happens at the Edinburgh Fringe, it really is word of mouth that matters: the talk of the steamie in Edinburgh can make or break a show. Walk around George Square, you’ll get twenty leaflets. All the shows sound good. The posters make every show look must see. So how do you decide? Of course, you should read GetYourCoatsOn but many recommendations are over a pint and that’s who we grownups listen to – a person who has seen it, not a person who is in it.
Turns out though that it isn’t just the steamie* or the pub. The primary school playground is vital. My kids had been talking about ‘Chores’ for days, just as last week all the talk was about ‘Fashion Spies’. By the looks of sold-out Piccolo theatre, every kid in Edinburgh has heard the news of ‘Chores’. What did we learn today kids? Word of mouth matters.
[*noun. Scottish slang. a public wash house. I hope that helps any Aussies reading this.]
‘Chores’ is a simple concept. Our stars play the roles of two children. Their parents who we never see but do hear from want the kids to tidy their room. Every parent in the place realises the battle the poor saps are having. I’ll confess. I wondered how they could spin this out for an hour?
As many an English batsmen has discovered over the years it is better just to stop questioning Australian decision making and let the inevitable happen to you. Shannon Vitali and Christian Nimri own the stage and wow the audience consistently. The kids are rapt. After all which kid here hasn’t been in this situation? Which kid hasn’t said ‘I’ll tidy my room now’ only somehow moments later for the room to have become a toy explosion they cannot explain with an exasperated parent mouthing ”HOW?!’ at them.
The adults are rapt too. The show has it all and the actors keep us in the palm of their hand barely saying a word. The children loved the toilet paper guns and water sprays but they were all screaming ‘’it’s behind you!’’: a lack of Pantomimes these last two years hasn’t killed this British tradition.
There are some stunning set pieces: the box trick in particular was genuinely brilliant. There aren’t too many shows that involve roller skating, bed sheets, mime, mini bikes, physical comedy and good ol’ fashioned clowning. My youngest enjoyed the bit where they sneezed into the pants. I won’t spoil it any more than that.
Both of these performers are talented. First and foremost this duo are funny. How many comics can make a few hundred people of all ages laugh consistently barely uttering a word? Physical comedy, funny faces, and props are a lot harder than a rude gag that can be the go to for many a kids’ entertainer. Yes, of course there are a couple of fart gags but this is old school Chaplin style comedy. It isn’t easy. It is hard, hard yakka.
But more than funny there is real, deft skill. Acrobatics, strength, gymnastics, clowning, strength. All I could think about as I grinned was the hours of practice, the mistakes and the – one assumes – drops and injuries. This show looks effortless but is based on trust and commitment. It shines through. Whether the kids are chatting about it in the steamie, the pub, or the primary school playground they are right. This is a proper, tight, quality show.
Could they do more? Well in terms of activity no. I wonder if the show would have been even better if the characters had slightly more interplay: one being the goody two shoes trying to tidy up whilst the other consistently undermining them? I suppose there approach is more realistic – both trying to tidy at points, the other accidentally undermining their effort or, on occasion, the room getting messier despite both of their intentions. There were moments of repetition, I think, that perhaps could have been cut down to make the show slightly shorter. That is to quibble though unduly. I doubt any of the kids who after all are the primary audience give the slightest of hoots about this.
Come for toilet paper guns. Stay in the hope your kids might tidy their room. Get your coats coats on and see this, you can tidy your rooms later.