Umbrage Swain And The Magical Diamond Of Tamtutiti
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2008
It is the 1980s and the world once more is in peril. There is but one hope for mankind… A New Romantic hope.
The pitch is easy for this good-natured romp. It’s simply a mix of Eighties adventure movies and New Romantic music. Indiana Jones meets Howard Jones. Or Modern Romancing The Stone…
There’s nothing much to it, a simple, episodic journey as our dashing – and bi-curious – hero wearing Prince Charming-vintage Adam Ant garb, leads his Cure-loving sidekick and token ra-ra-skirted tottie from one fantastical place to another in their quest to beat their nemesis, The Darkness, to the titular precious stone.
The endeavour is little more than an excuse for tongue-in-cheek in-jokes for Eighties music fans, contrived puns and the sort of greatest-hits soundtrack that’ll have a Rubik’s Cube on the cover when you see it on the shelf at Asda. Everything is held together with goodwill and Velcro, but hold together it does.
Were this a camp West End extravaganza – and the set-up surely lends itself to that treatment – Umbrage Swain would be unlimited in its raucous high spirits. As it is, leads James Wren and Richard Glover play it with a knowing silliness, rather than out-and-out camp. Mark Lyminster isn’t quite so reserved, ramping his performance to 11, but these grotesques work well as supporting roles, where ridicule is nothing to be scared of.
But elsewhere a bit of extra oomph wouldn’t go amiss to compensate for the non-existent budget. The re-creation of Buck Fizz’s Eurovision-winning moment seems quite pedestrian, and there’s no big celebratory climax to send the audience out into the street with their Deely Boppers a-waggling.
Yet there is plenty of silliness en route. Genghis Khan, looking like something out of Michael Bentine’s Potty Time, and foul-mouthed goldfish Stickleback The Profane are among the beautifully surreal little touches.
Much of the fun is in spotting the references in the wordplay. Some aren’t hard to see – that the quest leads them to the Temple Tudor, for example – but others are more cunning. I’d venture this show has the best gag involving influential Welsh new-wavers The Alarm in the Fringe.
It’s a jolly bit of bubblegum theatre, and a nostalgic, embarrassing reminder of exactly what was acceptable in the Eighties. The only way is up, baby…
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett