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Rogues Handbook: Bumper Book Of Horror

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Jason Stone

There are those who believe that the spirit of the Fringe is better represented by game failures like this than is by the wondrous entertainment that can be found elsewhere. And there may be something in this... in the same way that no summary of the cultural phenomenon that is The X Factor would be complete without a rendition of Angels by a deranged halfwit wearing a fairy costume, a picture of the Fringe wouldn't be complete without acknowledging the contribution made by small groups of deluded drama students who seem to believe that writing is merely ink on paper.

For once, a Fringe audience voted with its feet. This quartet lost around half of the 50 people who turned up to see their show in The Pear Tree - one of the best Free Fringe venues - before the lights came up to end the torment of the survivors.  It wasn't a single walkout either but a steady dribble of people deciding they'd had enough at different times. But all for the same reason, it would seem... they'd all reached their limit with a show that was like watching a group of young children playing an imaginative but impenetrable game that made sense only to the participants.

The paranormal provided a vague theme to the loosely connected sketches, but a great deal of effort was required to see how it all joined up and there was little prospect that doing so would bring any kind of reward. From the opening song to the time-travel inspired finale, the performers tried to generate energy through exuberance alone.  Had the writing ever seemed funny to the four as they contemplated their Edinburgh run? Did they manage to make each other laugh as they rehearsed it? It doesn't seem likely that the answer to either of these questions was 'yes' so why are they willing to inflict on an audience? Do they think it doesn't matter because no one pays any money?

Targets of their ribaldry included police interviews and, in particular, the good cop/bad cop routine but they didn't bring anything new to well-explored territory.  And sketches based on hauntings and poltergeists only succeeded in providing an excuse for shouting. Worst of all was a joke involving a haunted urinal that led to water being squirted into the audience, proving that we were wrong if we thought we couldn't hate this performance any more than we already did.

If plaudits were handed out for earnestness then shows like this would be picking up stars like a drunken model but that's about as likely as one of the Saturday night nutjobs getting the nod from Simon Cowell and securing the Christmas Number One.

Review date: 30 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Jason Stone

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