Tag Archives: leo west

GMTG presents: The Comedian @ The Guild of Students

the comedian

You’d be forgiven for thinking that GMTG’s most recent musical, The Comedian, was a light-hearted comedy. It was definitely funny but didn’t deliver the happy ending the audience were expecting.

The play tells the story of Tim Adams, played by Matt McConnell: an awkward stand-up comedian who we meet on the edge of his ‘big break’ and follow as he struggles to deal with the pressure of his new-found fame. McConnell is a likeable lead who wins us over with his hilarious childhood anecdotes as he delivers a stand-up routine directly to the audience. Although a somewhat nervous singer at the start, this made him incredibly endearing and was shattered by his later solos which were angry, anguished and powerful.

Tim’s big break comes when he is offered the chance to host a panel show, the wittily titled ‘News Flush’. These episodes were the highlight of the musical for me as the audience are invited to play the role of a live audience, cheering and clapping along with the sparring between the panel show’s guests. However Tim’s inability to get a word in edge-ways results in him being panned by critics and he resorts to cocaine to boost his confidence. Whilst his drug-fuelled comeback wins the respect of the panel and the critics, he loses the love of his doting fiancée Hannah- played by Megan Probert.

Probert is a talented singer and the heart-breaking solo in which she realises she no longer recognises the man she loves in Tim gave me shivers. However the stand out role for me was that of Tim’s manager, ‘best friend’ and eventual drug dealer Ollie, played brilliantly by Ciaran Cresswell. Smarmy, suave and self-assured, I hated him and admired him in equal measure. Tim is as under Ollie’s influence as the audience are and, with Ollie’s encouragement, continues taking cocaine.

What follows are Tim’s more and more tragic attempts to win Hannah back whilst he spirals into addiction, leading to an unexpectedly disturbing ending. His quest for critical success causes him to lose everything and left me thinking about the way we constantly strive for more without realising what we have already.

What amazed me most of all, however, was that the script and music was written completely from scratch by Leo West and Josh Sood. The play was well written and the songs in particular were so catchy that you couldn’t believe they were original. At times the play even seemed to mock the emotional aspect of musicals, such as when Tim wanders on stage for a moving solo and is so upset that after several attempts to start singing he gives up and leaves. Although the anti-climax made the audience laugh, it was also very touching.

Overall it was this ability to intertwine comedy and tragedy, often in a single line or song, which I found most impressive about this musical- I never knew whether to laugh or cry.

By Ellicia Pendle

@elliciapendle

The News from Holsam @ The Guild of Students

72680_496874040369677_918888061_nThe News from Holsam, is a new macabre sketch show based on a concept by comedy trio Richard Higgs, Chaz Redhead, and Alice Kennedy, A.K.A. ‘Menage a Trois.’ This week, there has been a growing mystique surrounding the show; its debut, peppered with creepy teaser trailers which can be found on the ‘Visit Holsam’ Facebook page set the tone for the show whilst keeping stubbornly ambiguous about any plot or characters.

A vague backwater town somewhere in the American south, ‘Holsam’ and its disturbed inhabitants are the backdrop for this inventive comedy sketch show, executed brilliantly using film, sound, and lighting (as well as lots of blood) to embellish the morbid world they have created. It is among the blackest of comedies: full of nasty shocks, often with an excitingly malevolent attitude to its audience; to spoil any specifics of the sketches would be to do the show a disservice. The potentially problematic high-concept works brilliantly and the sketches and performances are consistently hilarious.

Despite the gruesome horror exterior, the dominant feeling from the performance is, surprisingly, refreshing. Ultimately, this is due to the distinct lack of irony. There are very few nods, winks or relevant 21st Century cultural references in it – something a lot of the comedy relies on far too heavily, perhaps at the expense of charm or personality. Instead, Holsam’s jokes are driven by the characters, situations, puns and wordplay. The audience also appeared uncomfortable with a surprising amount of slapstick right from the start.

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This is classic, ‘old-school’ sketch comedy by people who clearly love and understand the genre. It’s a breath of fresh air, especially with the added sting in its tail of murder, blood, Satanists and the omnipresent menace of ‘The Bleeding Man.’ To make a comparison, one could say it has its roots in things like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and certainly The League of Gentlemen. The town of Holsam essentially functions in the sketches in the same way Royston Vasey did in The League. However, the charm and childishness of the sketches should not be underplayed. There is a pinch of Horrible Histories in The News from Holsam that adds an unexpectedly playful, whimsical edge amongst all the violence and screaming of its black vignettes.

45701_10152570435400103_1032656385_nAs many have come to expect from this cast, the performances were brilliant. James Dolton, Alexandra Martino and Leo West deftly turn into many hilarious characters, all played with an exhausting amount of energy. Particularly impressive was how each member alternated between variations of accents around Bible-Belt USA, depending on which character they were playing. An especially enjoyable voice was Chaz Redhead’s attorney of law (and moonlighting exorcist) character Joseph Goldenstein. Played with a nasal 1930’s ‘Talkie’ speed and corky pronunciations; for example, ‘commercial’ becoming ‘com-er-she-al.’ Yet they had the self-awareness to call attention to how ridiculous it was they were performing in accents. In one of the  brilliant moments early on, when the audience had just about adjusted their ears to Yanky drawls, Richard Higgs came on with his unmistakable brummy-brogue clash completely without explanation. The characters are excellent too: recognisable archetypes are twisted and mangled, making the cliques dark and monstrous, for instance Alice Kennedy’s pie cooking ‘Southern-Belle’ Mayor we meet initially becomes… well I won’t spoil it.

The News from Holsam is clearly a labour of love and bursting with ideas, playfulness, comedy and horror. It chases all its macabre whimsies to their logical, grizzly conclusions and hopefully this nasty little show will return for a longer run. It is truly exciting and effervescing with cadaverous, messed up ideas.

James Grady

@James_Grady