From The Devil They Came: Brighton Fringe 2011

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

This sloppy studenty farce has aspirations towards the broad slapstick of Rik Mayall at his most manic. But even anarchy – at least of the stage variety – needs both consistency and consideration, neither of which is in evidence here.

The story revolves around Sir Lord Leslie Creep, a mild-mannered yet slimy old Etonian incompetent with designs on becoming Prime Minister – where do they get their ideas? He clumsily winds up killing his ruthless party leader, then accidentally summons up the devil who will get him out of this pickle and engineer his political ambitions, if only he provides him with a soul.

But Faust – or even The New Statesman – this ain’t, mainly because nothing’s thought through. The plot trundles on with no internal logic or viable suspension of disbelief. Even in the early scenes Creep swings between meek underdog to his boss to the sadistic bully of his own underling without much reason, but the problems run much deeper than this.

There is no rhyme or reason to the story. Half-arsed ideas are chucked in with no connection to the narrative, as if writer Nicholas Agnew – who also plays Creep thought of an unrelated joke and not wanted to throw it away. But he most certainly should have done.

Examples include an extended call centre skit and, most bizarrely, a Harry Potter ‘parody’ – to do huge injustice to the noble phrase – which is full of tediously obvious double entendres about ‘grasping your wands’. It’s typical of the puerile writing in a script which thinks Ivor Cockhead is an acceptable character name and which will never have a photographer take a picture when he can ‘get out his equipment and flash’. I’ve made that sound better than it is.

These might seem like churlish criticisms, for in the right hands such Broad Comedy can work exceptionally well. But here there seems no natural bawdiness, just desperate mugging to try to breathe life into a moribund script.

Agnew aside, it’s not really the actors’ fault – aside from they’ve just been saddled with directionless, ill-thought-through writing. Special credit must go to Jack Kelly who makes the admittedly plum role of Satan’s little helper entertainingly seedy and demonic – but it’s really a waste of everyone’s efforts. Not that the writer could have exerted much effort on this half-cocked offering.

Review date: 28 May 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Iambic Theatre

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