"Great choreography and great writing"
by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat on 22/08/11

That's the Spirit (Douglas Baker) ****
Excess Deductible (Charles Golding) ****

In contrast to the Edinburgh Festival, the Camden Fringe gets very little publicity. This is a pity because the latter is an underappreciated showcase for new comics and dramatists. Save Our Bones, a double bill of two one-act plays at the Etcetera Theatre, is evidence that London can compete with Scotland's capital.

"That's the Spirit", written and directed by Douglas Baker, is a comedy about recently dead Keefa (Rachel Duddle) and Dustin (Emily Hodgson). Saved from the clutches of two desiccated spirits (Elizabeth Holmes and Alice Blane) by former circus clown Tippy Dabo (Zoe Land) their fate rests in the hands of the Clerk (Sarah Heenan) and her assistant (Sally Samad). Although this concept has been used by other films and plays, the quality of the writing and the acting made it entertaining, rather than derivative.

Although Samad, Holmes and Bane provided solid support, the four main characters were particularly strong. Heenan was a suitably capricious celestial administrator, moaning to her assistant about the colour of her office and demanding that applicants plead their case in rhyming verse. Duddle and Hodgson, especially the former, were convincing as two friends who, even though they can't live with each other, find that they need to work together to navigate through the afterlife. Land also brought real pathos to her part.

"Excess Deductible" is a rollicking comedy about a Professor (Phil Piggott) whose discovery of the secret of eternal life has created a dystopian society. Fired from the administrative job that he was forced to take, he is informed by a chorus line of his colleagues (Sarah Heenan, Becca Adams, Georgina Leslie and Zoe Land) that, although he will receive a generous cash settlement, the health policy keeping him and his family alive will be terminated in less than an hour.

This gives him just enough time for a disastrous visit to a brothel (Lauren Conlon, Elizabeth Holmes, Brittany Atkins and Alice Blane), a recrimination-filled reunion with his bickering family (Zoe Lola Paul and Heenan, Adams and Leslie) and a few last minutes playing word-games with the hippies running a local hostel (same as brothel).

Charlie Golding chose to tell the story mainly through a succession of spoken-word choruses, a risky decision that staked everything on the quality of the choreography and the actors' timing. Fortunately the gamble paid off, with Conlon, Homes, Atkin and Blane's turn as prostitutes particularly good, although the humour did turn a bit crude at one point.

Already well-known for their acting abilities, Baker and Golding have shown themselves to be talented writers-directors. This show is definitely worth seeing when it returns to the Etcetera Theatre in early September, although it may not be suitable for young children.

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