CAMDEN FRINGE REVIEW: Journeys, Tristan Bates Theatre

playing until Saturday 6 Aug, then at the Edinburgh Fringe (Gilded Balloon) 8-29 August

In their first outing at the Camden Fringe, Buckle Up Theatre’s latest physical comedy presents four characters on a mysterious journey as they move from being a group of strangers to a tight-knit unit. It’s fun and captivating, with a scattering of poignant moments that draw the show in another direction. The piece is at its most successful when there is no dialogue, and the cast are free to show their exuberant facial expressions and detailed physical movements.

Journeys - Buckle Up TheatreWe begin with a vibrant section of joyous physicality, as the cast of four shuffle and scuffle past each other in the guise of travellers caught in a crush, all to the backing of lively Spanish music. The colliding, ducking and pushing will be hilariously familiar to anyone who has to negotiate the London transport system on a daily basis. The nuances of the characters even in these silent passages are impressive, with each performer quickly creating their own personality. Particularly engaging are Rob Taylor-Hastings, whose overtones of awkwardness are instantly endearing, and Rosie Ward, whose incredibly expressive face draws your eye at every shift and contortion.

As the journey continues, we begin to discover more about each person on the journey. While the structure feels a little clunky at times, it’s refreshing to get an insight into each individual; many similar shows tend to be ensemble pieces with less distinction between each performer. Some passages are more effective than others: that of the frustrated French artist Pierre (Taylor-Hastings) becomes rather predictable, while that of actress/exotic dancer Lola (Genevieve Dunne) goes for easy laughs, sentimentality and histrionic drama. Others are more successful, particularly when the performers are miming or using sound effects and exclamations. The fuller dialogue disrupts the rhythm of the physical comedy and the repetition means the wittiness begins to fade. On the other hand, moments of silliness more than make up for this, with episodes such as the leaking tyre and the apparently increasingly heavy suitcases raising laughs. Andrew Hollingworth is impressive at blending the humour and pathos of his tale as Marco, the Italian soldier constantly in the shadow of his elder brother.

Journeys - Buckle Up Theatre (2)

As the one-hour narrative progresses, we move into more poignant territory with an ending that is surprisingly affecting. The material has its niggles, but Buckle Up Theatre is a company with many strengths and the cast prove their gift at physical comedy and ability to charm the audience. This is a quirky piece with international appeal that moves from the ridiculous to the beautiful, and is an accessible piece for newcomers to this form of theatre. Catch it by the weekend if you’re in London, or head to the Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh to see them in action.

Click here for more information.

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