Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2003
Low prices, cheaper lives. The League of Gentlemen meets Are You Being Served? at the Krazyprice department store in this dark, twisted character comedy by writers/performers already spotted for TV.
Stand-ups Matt Tiller and Michael Spicer each take on several roles in this gently funny play about corruption, dead-end jobs and the grim underside of society.
Tiller's shady characters include a worryingly convincing Barry George-alike (complete with rather queasy 'I will shoot you and graze your eye' monologue), a hair-restorer salesman and an all-too-believable racist Tory politician. Spicer in turn plays an in-store demonstrator, a security guard and a scarily apathetic policeman.
All the action is set in and around a Lidl-standard supermarket called Krazy Price, giving a loose narrative to what is essentially a series of sketches. While there are a few laugh-out-loud moments, the majority of the humour is dry and subtle, raising either wry smiles or puzzlement from the small
From Spicer's transvestite sergeant to Tiller's wannabe-rock star sales assistant (who sings us his immortal composition 'Pet Food Bitch'), the characters are irremediably dysfunctional - there are no 'normal' roles for the audience to relate to, and therefore no standard of social acceptability against which to gauge our protagonists' perversions. Thus the play descends into a world of surreal deviance, occasionally leaving the viewer feeling rather grubby.
However, the duo's writing and acting skills are strong enough to carry off the bizarre premise, while the gags feel like lines naturally belonging to the characters rather than laboured devices. 'So your book's semi-autobiographical?' the politician asks the dim security guard. 'Yeah, well, half of it is,' comes the unsure reply.
Soft Toys might make you fear for its creators' sanity, but it's still an enjoyable way to spend 50 minutes.