Camden Fringe Reviews: Bareback & Spells For A Broken Heart

Reviews of two Camden Fringe shows – Bareback at the Museum of Comedy & Spells For A Broken Heart at the Hen and Chickens

“I have no idea what just happened but it felt important”

Some shows defy easy description and whilst that isn’t always necessarily a good thing, Horseplay’s Bareback surfs the wave of its kaleidoscopic creativity to nail a sweet spot of its very own. Exploring sex, performance and the afterlife, it’s more cohesive than a sketch show, more a kinda character revue that continually spins the wheel to bring up new faces, well, the same faces in different wigs, this is a properly queer as fuck show after all.

For Horseplay are Derek Mitchell and Kathy Maniura and between them, they conjure any number of outlandish personalities from historical personalities to body parts, all of whom are struggling in their own way to deal with life after death, the restrictions it imposes on them, the changes it asks them to swallow. So for all the quick changes and fast-paced repartee (so fast you could watch it again to hear the jokes you missed while laughing), there’s always a sense of something more serious nagging away.

And like a glass of cheap chardonnay in the face, when that moment hits it is most arresting. I love a good disruption and here, the dropping of the artifice (or is it…) to a conversational, confessional style is a bracing change of pace and one which punches its message through as LGBT+ voices sing loud and proud, sharing a seemingly more personal experience of the performative nature of identity, something that will ring true for so many in the community and indeed beyond. Ones to look out for.  

Making their debut at Camden Fringe is On The Common Theatre Company, hoping to weave a little magic with their first play Spells For A Broken Heart. Written by Abby Witchalls and Olivia Randall, it is a leftfield look at the things we’ll do in order to find love, even when or perhaps particularly if you’re young. 

Myles has dumped Rose, over Snapchat and understandably, she isn’t taking it too well, especially since he’s just leaving her on read now. So she turns to her brother’s hippyish girlfriend who recommends an alternative approach to getting her heart’s desire – namely using a touch of witchcraft through magik.

What follows is a warm-hearted, gently funny foray about re-entry into the dating world, especially when fore-armed with lovecakes, but also about the self-care that is needed after a traumatic break-up. Scenes with new suitors are chaotically if engagingly done (I could have done without the earworm of ‘Uptown Girl’ though!) but there’s something intriguing there in the new path of Rose’s journey which could well be worth further exploration.   

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