Laughing Mirror Theatre’s Guy Fawkes It Up provides an amusing and occasionally hilarious hour or so at Waterloo East Theatre
“Not now, Cecil”
There’s a wonderfully warm affability about this company that can’t help but incline you towards liking ’em. As you enter the black box of Waterloo East Theatre for Guy Fawkes It Up, some lightly involving pre-theatre business raises a chuckle and as the show starts, it is soon clear that we’re in for a farcical retelling of what was ultimately a rather farcical bit of history. It is all agreeably done and at times, properly laugh-out-loud funny.
Written by Chad Porter and James Darby of Laughing Mirror Theatre, this is very much your archetypal fringe comedy – it was in fact their debut show in Edinburgh back in 2017. The play is a light-hearted look at the 1605 gunpowder plot and how the history books actually need little dressing up here in terms of identifying the farce of it all, as the plotters bungled their conspiracy over and over again. That said, this is still a raucous reinterpretation of events.
This revival is low on set design but high on ingenuity and a knowing, self-referential sense of humour, there’s a running gag about all the doors being replaced with black curtains for instance. And it is this level of silliness that abounds here, particularly once the wholesale multi-roling starts to kick in. Harrison Cole channels a touch of Matt Berry as the swaggering, speechifying Guy Fawkes but also plays the detective chasing him, and a royal guard to boot – this and more is multiplied across the whole company which proves daring and dizzying at times.
Porter and Darby seem to be working on the throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach. The number of characters they try to include in here is amusingly referenced to begin with but then loses its impact with time and capacity at a premium and so many of them just forgotten. Similarly, there’s a machine-gun rate of jokes packed into the script which means their quality is inevitably variable, you might wish a firmer hand on the edit there.
For when they do hit the mark, it can be inspired. The escalating the query up the chain of command gag is funny the first time we see it but then hits a real, heavenly high in its ecclesiastical configuration which is still making me giggle now. And as I said at the start, there’s such warmth from Cole, Ellie Church, Hattie Manton, Jess Cuthbert, Seb Fear and particularly Daniel Hemsley with his hugely magnetic stage presence, that it is easy to forgive minor grumbles and just go with the daftness.