Review: Cockfosters, Turbine Theatre

Set on a tube carriage, Cockfosters is a surprisingly surreal comedy now playing at the Turbine Theatre

“I’ve always wanted to go to Lambeth North”

Much like a tube carriage on the Piccadilly Line at rush hour, Cockfosters manages to cram an extraordinary amount, even within the hour of its running time. What starts off seeming like a rom-com, as James and Tori both get on the Underground at Heathrow after holidays of varying quality and soon get chatting, morphs into something closer to a sketch show as the surreal takes over the storytelling.

The conceit is that they’re both going to Cockfosters, nearly 40 stations away at the other end of the line, providing ample opportunity to get to know each other, if only every cliché about London tube life didn’t get in the way. From beggars to buskers, clueless tourists to that person you’re trying to avoid, rowdy hen parties to rowdy football crowds, there’s never a quiet moment as is so often true once you’ve tapped in with your Oyster card.

At its best, Cockfosters is very funny. By picking up on the smallest, truest to life details, the laughter of recognition is easily procured by writers Tom Woffenden and Hamish Clayton. The barely intelligible aggression of platform attendants, the trends of Tube advertising, the labyrinths (possibly the funniest joke of the night), Richard Head…. Some of the surreal twists land so well too – the existential dread of being offered a seat, the Brief Encounter-esque skit, the Grim Reaper popping on for a quick ride.

At the same time, some of those interventions feel a little drawn out or perhaps not quite as effective. There’s a foray into audience participation via a gameshow, a number of musical interludes and a few too many funny walks but the beauty of the format is that nothing ever sticks around too long, we’re soon off to the next station and the next gag. Saul Boyer and Beth Lilly lead the cast well as the central couple but Amy BIanchi, Ed Bowles, Charlie Keable, Kit Loyd and Natasha Vasandani offer great support in the revolving carousel of fellow passengers.

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