Mark Evans introduces us to a farcical story set against the backdrops of Dickensian London. The story follows Pip Bin, the man who invented the bin. Based on Evans’s award-winning radio series, it comes complete with skipping, baguette sword fighting, convict bakers and lots of other good-hearted silliness.
The narrator Sir Philip Bin (wonderfully played by Sally Phillips this week) tells the story of his life. His mother becomes a widow after his father is mysteriously killed by penguins. Meaning Pip and his siblings must be taken in by his late father's conniving business partner Gently Benevolent who plans to marry his sister Pippa and steal the family fortune. Along the way, we’re introduced to a collection of characters from Pip's best friend Harry Biscuit, his siblings, the three identical brothers and sister of Gently Benevolent and more! It’s multi-rolling done well!
Caroline Leslie’s production is never resting. The pace is kept up and the cast are working at their best. There feels like something is missing though. At times it feels like the gags are being pushed too many times and that the show feels over-rehearsed in terms of the punch lines. Rather than the audience feeling in on the joke, we’re left wondering when a character is going to speak to us. The fourth wall doesn’t feel tapped into enough in a relatively intimate space. The radio allows for the repetitiveness of the script but when live it feels tired.
Philips however (or whoever plays the role of Sir Pip) is a breath of fresh air. This role will be played by a guest comedian each week and it really works. Book in hand, she feels unsure of what she’s doing but it feels intentional and made for some hilarious improvised moments and impromptu jokes. I think the role keeps the cogs turning and I would be interested to see it played by Jo Brand or Jack Dee who I’m sure will add an extra dose of sarcasm.
The cast are brilliant and throw themselves into the absurdity and high energy of the show. Marc Pickering is a standout. Playing the Hardthrasher Siblings. His comedic timing undoubtedly carried some of the silliest scenes and he knew which buttons to push. Rachel Summers is also a fantastic comedy chops as Pips lover Ripely Fecund. She plays into the ridiculousness of the text and doesn’t doubt herself.
Young Pip himself played by Dom Hodson is exactly what we want on a show like this. There is a wicked sense of humour bubbling behind his performance. Hodson takes the time to ridicule the script with a couple of glances to the audience. At one point he couldn’t work part of the props and broke the fourth wall to blame it on press night - that’s what we want!
The production feels like it should have a similar reception to Operation Mincemeat or The Play That Goes Wrong. I think with a few tweaks it could similarly be a belter of a show.
The set by Katie Lias is wonderfully detailed with Dickensian books, talking portraits and gliding furniture (and lamp posts.)
There were some belly laugh moments and the cast's dedication to storytelling makes for a great night out with lots of laughter.
It runs until 3 September.
Review: Nicole Botha Photo: Manuel Harlan