FringeReview.com / Review / Writing: Journalism

The Animals of Butter Bridge (****)

LOW DOWN

This is new writing at its best, a clever, witty, disturbing piece that doesn’t pander to any existing comedy tropes, and a great evening’s entertainment. The story is a bizarre foray into the woodlands, an adventure in which a group of outsiders join together to save a poor rabbit, kidnapped by a wily fox. The subsequent tale is dirty, dark, horrendous and surreal, and highly recommended.

REVIEW

I freely admit that I was a little sceptical about this production. The poster, the publicity, it all spoke of a children’s adventure story with talking animals and a grim twist: not exactly my cup of tea. However, the resulting show was unexpectedly clever and well-written, and I would recommend this to anyone with a funny bone: it is exceptional new comedy.

The story is impossible to explain. Suffice it to say that a fox and a rabbit run off together, the rest of the animals are convinced it’s a trap, and a group of outsider animals decide to go off and save the poor rabbit from certain death. What happens next I simply cannot give away, as this dark and surreal comedy bounces all over the stage, throwing out new characters, plot-lines and themes at a break-neck pace, and to give away a story that seems slapdash but is actually well-crafted and tight would be unfair on any prospective audience member. Expect to be surprised.

The peculiar story informs much of the rest of the production. The acting is off-the-wall: what at first seems a little hammy befits the children’s-book-gone-wrong angle the whole piece exudes, and all of the actors perform their part with verve and energy, bringing to life this bizarrest of scripts excellently. The design of the whole piece was a weird mixture of painted sets and stuffed animals, the character’s costumes at times symbolic and at times representative.

This shouldn’t have been good; it reeked of student drama when I first walked in, but the heart, energy and vibrancy of this production blew that out of the water. The concessions made to the children’s book thematic allowed some of the more slapdash elements to function easily within that context, allowing for simple, evocative staging and props: a very clever conceit. The only element that let the production down was the sound. It was poorly recorded, although the use of live piano was lovely. I’d recommend re-recording the effects, and finding more voices to do them: the entire opening was lost, as it was unintelligible.

This young and inventive troupe are on the cusp of something very exciting: a piece that doesn’t pander, that is new comedy and extremely exciting for it. They throw themselves into their piece so completely that some of the slapdash elements can be forgiven, however I would encourage them to really fine-tune the piece, to add more professionalism to this deserving production. Do not miss this show when it’s up in Edinburgh!
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