Aeneas Faversham Forever
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2008
A dastardly plot is afoot, one that could threaten the Empire. Innocent children's author Rufus Hambleden is suddenly thrown into a web of suspicion, embezzlement, secret societies and horrifying murder across Victorian London.
Quality envelops every minute of Aeneas Faversham Forever like a pea-souper in Victorian London. Itís well-acted, brilliantly staged and artfully written. In fact, the stage seems insufficient to contain its filmic ambition.
The Ripping Yarns-style mystery involves a shadowy organisation called The Brotherhood operating in the 1890s with a mystifying link to the newly-opened Tower Bridge. Only childrenís author Rufus Hambledon and disgraced policeman McAllister, who has an unfortunate tendency to shoot people in the face, can unpick their dastardly machinations.
Thus begins the action-packed escapade, a narrative step up from the previous sketch format creators Humphrey Ker, David Reed and Thom Tuck have preferred, although the plot isnít exactly watertight.
Movies are parodied, theatrical conventions lovingly mocked, and a wide range of exaggerated characters created. All the while the evocative feel of Victorian London, with its gentleman criminals and well-mannered henchmen is maintained.
Quite how youíll take to it probably depends on your attitude to overplayed comic acting, which is rife. A favourite trick is to deliver modern slang with 19th Century idiom, which proves remarkably effective. There are some nice little lines in this, but equally often itís just the cartoon villainy thatís supposed to get the laughs in itself.
Shadow puppets fill in some of the ridiculous back story involving an evil oyster-god, adding another aspect to the slick, atmospheric production values that pervade everything from costume to soundtrack.
A Python influence is obvious in the silly voices Ė and the killer rabbits. The wide range of characters created by these threesome arenít blessed with complex layers of personality, but thereís enough to get the jokes out.
Personally, Iíd like to see the melodramatic facade drop a little Ė the biggest laugh comes the one time they corpse, interrupting the cod-serious tone of the show. And the best character is the most ridiculous, the semi-retarded Steve with his appealing malapropisms.
Itís a hugely entertaining, and often funny, comic caper, but also a little bit pleased with itself. A touch more tongue-in-cheek silliness wouldnít go amiss.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett