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Ginger & Black in The Extraordinary Life and Times of Harold - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Corry Shaw

If these musical storytellers had produced anything short of fantastic in this show they would have been looking at a two-star review. To only remain onstage for 43 minutes when you are selling tickets for an hour long show is indefensible – but the quality of performance goes some way to make up for the lack of quantity.

Eri Jackson (Ginger) and Daniel Taylor (Black) have cultivated their deadpan and intelligent musical-cum-sketch-cum-character comedy into a fine art and The Extraordinary Life and Times of Harold could have been a masterpiece, had the audience not been sold short.

The loose story is based around Harold, a ten-year-old lad growing up under the bomb shelters of World War Two. The plot is as bizarre as it is funny, with a paedophile bird handler, a wounded war veteran who lived under a sheet with a fork in his head and a ‘feeder’ making several appearances.

The writing is good but the partnership between Jackson & Taylor is what really makes the show. They have an exceptional ability to bounce of each other flawlessly with even the subtlest facial expression passing between the two leading to huge peels of laughter from the audience. The love-hate relationship works best when the two slip out of character to discuss Jackson’s broken wrist or interact with the audience. They have a disgruntled camaraderie that serves to heighten the effect of their droll delivery.

The icy personas change in a flicker of the lights as they emerge as animated, bouncy characters in each sketch, Hawkman is the most developed role, a man with an unnatural love for birds and children. It’s a deliciously dark creation, played beautifully by Taylor.

The surprise (apart from the shocking under-running) is that music does not feature as heavily in this show as you might expect from a pair that make their living as a musical act. Whether this is down to Jackson’s broken wrist or has been a conscious decision to focus more on their acting and sketch abilities, I do not know. But it certainly has not done them any harm.

It is criminal that they have forfeited a star and I’d imagine a fair bit of goodwill with the paying public for a show that could make the running but just doesn’t last the distance.

Review date: 16 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Corry Shaw

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