As the Camden Fringe moves into its final week, here’s reviews of the brilliantly absurd Frydays at the Camden People’s Theatre and the equally goofy Defective Inspector at the Hen & Chickens
“Your papa slipped on a haddock and now he’s dead”
Grief hits us in different ways. Some act out, some wail and shout, others retreat to their safe place with kazoos and saxophones. Such is the case for twins Chris and Chriss whose reaction to the death of their chippy-owning father is to lock themselves away in the freezer, safe from the outside world. Their only solace comes from the stories they tell each other as they let their imaginations run riot with a musical accompaniment to boot. Frydays is one of those tales and turns out to be magically absurd and really quite fantastic.
Writers/performers Louis Turner and Madeline Hatt have fashioned something special here. Entirely unassuming from the start, the show’s slowburn development is a delight to behold as the pair pluck character after character and instrument after instrument to flesh out a world of adventurous derring-do as they try to save their chippy. Flirty lingerie shop assistants and hapless henchmen, ukuleles and bass guitars, there’s endless inventiveness here allied with daftly chucklesome humour and real musical talent. I absolutely loved it – Ice Cream Dan needs his own spin-off show though.
Oddly enough, that wasn’t the first show I saw last night to reference a haddock. Being slapped with a cold haddock is just one of the ways Defective Inspector takes its own route into the absurd and entertainingly so too. Richard P Cooper has tried his hand at being a detective, a novelist, a husband and a father and not done well at any – so naturally he’s now decided to turn his hand to theatre. Only trouble is, he requested 20 actors to help him tell his story but only 2 have turned up – thus a madcap hour of multi-roling mayhem follows.
Cooper is played by the show’s writer Harrison Cole and he comes across as a Philip Marlowe via Douglas Reynholm (late of The IT Crowd) type, taking himself entirely seriously as he also narrates his tale, whilst trying to cope with the Mischief-inspired chaos around him. Daniel Hemsley and Francesca Eldred are huge amounts of fun as the grudging volunteers who work endlessly to cover any number of roles from three-legged canine mayoral candidates to femmes fatales, cops, jazz musicians and more. The sense of humour is off the wall – hatred of limes, abuse of badgers, metal trays and tea towels and commentary on fringe theatre, it proves quite the enjoyable romp.