New Art Club: Quiet Act Of Destruction

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

New Art Club’s Quiet Act Of Destruction was one of the critical hits of last year’s Fringe, so it’s testament to its quality that it’s still got legs 14 months on. That, or the fact that this double act are still so relatively unknown that they’ve got a lot of audience yet to convert.

For that, they’ve probably only got themselves to blame, with that offputting name likely to scare off those seeking uncomplicated chuckles. Yet, it’s also a great misnomer, for while there is art in what they do, this is really just an hour of various flavours of silliness.

This is a story about one half of the duo, Tom Roden, moving to the Cambridgeshire village of Meldreth. Which might not sound that exciting a premise bit it is told, they boast, in an ‘overblown and pompous manner for comic effect’. They turn our to be true to their word.

Scriptwriting gurus tell us you cannot have story without conflict, and in this case it comes from a rivalry with the neighbouring settlement of Melbourn. The audience are divided into competing loyalties; with a thin buffer of people representing the wood separating the villages.

Competition can bring out the worst in people, and it’s not long before we’re all scrambling to win semi-arbitrary ‘points’ for our community, many won in odd and often messy games. The pantomime rivalry quickly turns ‘serious’ and a wild bread fight breaks out. This is how sectarianism starts…

In a call for peace, Roden evokes a poignant story of a First World War soldier; rather undermined by his colleague Pete Shenton’s arsing about. With scraggly hair and swivel-eyes, he’s the subversive younger brother of the duo, though the dynamic is effectively underplayed. You could make a comparison with Morecambe and Wise – indeed they positively invite it – which might be an accurate assessment of the tone of their show, but there’s only every going to be one side winning in that contest.

Trained dancers, New Art Club came to prominence for their comedy choreography – but aside from one silly number, there’s little evidence of that here. But although their work is evolving, their background still informs their physical humour, and the importance they place on an eclectic – and often deliberately inappropriate – soundtrack.

Quiet Act Of Destruction depends more on their easy charm than their nifty footwork; and they prove irresistibly persuasive in getting the audience to comply with all their shenanigans. Even if you’re no fan of audience participation, they will win you over.

Their story goes off on a few too many tangents to be wholly absorbing, but the spirit of playfulness is a winner, no matter what the final inter-village scoreboard says.

Review date: 11 Oct 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

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