Review: Made Up – Pulse Fringe Festival

A show that is improvised from scratch each night is virtually impossible to review. The show on any given night will be so different that comparative notes seem irrelevant. One can, however, look at the concept, construction and ability of such a piece to entertain.

Made Up, to mis-use the catchphrase of a well know television advert, does exactly what it says on the tin: three performers ask for suggestions for a film title from the audience and, after an audience vote, proceed to create an evening’s entertainment accompanied by a live band.

The concept isn’t new and various companies have tried the format both on stage and on television. Cartoon De Salvo now step up to the mark with live improvised music from four-piece band The Adventurists.

For this evening the choice of films was between ‘The Spanner Thief’ and ‘The Orange Assassin’ – the latter winning the audience vote.

What follows is an over-the-top, historically inaccurate and cross gendered period romp that sees an 83-year-old-King Henry VIII married to a bearded Anne Boleyn who, in turn, is having an illicit affair with a clog dancing William of Orange.

Performers Neil Haigh, Brian Logan and Alex Murdoch switch between this mixed bag of characters without the aid of costumes or props, relying on a couple of chairs and themselves to carry the story. They are impressive performances, bouncing ideas off each other and reacting to the numerous plot twists imposed by their fellow performers.

The Adventurists provide suitable musical underscoring, including a couple of comic musical song and dance numbers.

All sounds promising and, indeed, there are many comic gems in the evening; however, running at just over one hour thirty minutes it seems way too long. What starts out as a mad cap concept slowly runs out of steam and, as the pace slows, audience attention begins to wander. Similar shows run to half this length and it’s a lesson that would benefit this show – either drastically cut the running time or, if Cartoon De Salvo wants to stick to the 90 minute format, perhaps consider two different stories.

There is certainly great skill on stage but one can’t help feeling it’s a structure seen before and, sadly on this permutation, one that has held attention better.

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