Four Noels: Doom Riders

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

'It's not some cheap fucking pantomime,' one of the 4 Noels
admonishes the excitable audience in mock-exasperation when they
fail to take a particularly ridiculous segment Doom Riders seriously.
But cheap pantomime is exactly what this silly gothic romp is,
for better or for worse.

At its best, this spoof horror melodrama captures the spirit
of Monty Python And The Holy Grail; a bunch of daft caricatures
playing up, all in the name of advancing a slight plot.

Here, it concerns the return of malevolent spirit Murdoch,
summoned by a dark knight and his two reanimated hunchback sidekicks,
Boris And Igor, who kidnap a virgin to act as a vessel for this
diabolical soul. However a novice priest, Charlie, is determined
to get to the bottom of the spooky goings-on in mysterious Steaming
Heape and defeat what evil lies there.

It's all stuff and nonsense, of course, simply the loosest
of frameworks on which to hang cinematic parodies, broad slapstick,
silly songs and heaps of physical comedy.

The Noels ­ of whom there are actually only three ­
are energetic, talented performers who drive the Knockabout action
forward at a relentless pace. Scenes are mostly short and snappy,
yet flow on fluidly from one to the next. There are few awkward
blackouts here, despite the small cast.

We've seen this sort of spoof plenty of times before: the
ham acting, the cheap substitutes for special effects the in-jokes
at the stupidity of trying to stage such an epic on a miniscule
budget, but this trio do pull it off very well, and the laughs
come thick and fast.

It's slightly uneven, however. Whenever the two deformed assistants
­ unavoidably reminiscent of Marty Feldman's work in Young
Frankenstein - are off-stage, the sense of exaggerated fun diminishes.
And there are a few parodies too many, especially when it comes
to yet another Star Wars reference. Trimming the already dense
script by ten minutes so it fits in to a standard 60-minute slot
could work wonders.

But it's forgiven by the energy and verve Australia-based
John Forman, Jesse Griffin and James Pratt bring to their exaggerated
grotesques, from a nymphomaniac nun to a very convincing 'eagle
of death'. They've worked together for long enough ­ this
show was first performed in Melbourne six years ago, just after
their last Edinburgh appearance ­ to be able to mess about
with the script, and each other, and it's these stupid improvised
moments that enliven the show even more.

It's definitely a triumph of performance over content ­
but my, what contagiously exuberant performances they are.

Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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