Bumper Blyton | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Bumper Blyton

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Even if you’ve never read Enid Blyton, you know the aesthetic: middle-class kids in a bucolic 1950s English setting get up to jolly high jinks and adventures. Gosh! 

It was a world so comprehensively parodied by the Comic Strip back in the 1980s, but still provides a strong backdrop for this extended improv show, thanks to its instantly familiar tropes. 

This is, of course, not a setting without its problems, and the Bumper Blyton crew acknowledge the racism, sexism and snobbery in the author’s work in their preamble. They mock it a little as the story unfolds – especially the misogyny – although there’s a limited amount they can really do.

Taking their title and the odd plot point from the audience, the troupe make up an hour-long story, tonight a Famous Five-style adventure about missing lambs. The long-form format is similar to Austentatious – and Amy Cooke-Hodgson (suitably matronly as she drove the story forward here) is a leading light in both.

Unfortunately, the storytelling is nowhere near as fluid as its Regency cousin. Much of the comedy comes from the team reaching to form a coherent plot – and usually falling short. Lashings of creaky links and dubious logic are thrown down in desperation as they must always keep moving forward, and there’s only so many times a non-sequitur leap is funny.

There are countless inventive moments throughout that compensate for this, however. I don’t know how often they use the device of being interrupted by a radio broadcast, but in this story, it was a delight. And for all Blyton’s sexism, it was the women that shone this time, from Rhiannon Vivian’s offbeat one-liners (which admittedly sometimes blindsided her colleagues) to Sally Hodgkiss’s rule-breaking tomboyish attitude kicking against the author’s stereotypes.

It’s certainly a stylish production. The team look the part, and piano accompaniment sets the scene charmingly – and even if the ad-libbed songs are uneven, they add a handy extra level of entertainment. But – on the evidence of this show, at least – the story is not slick enough to be involving, nor the gags sharp enough for that not to matter. Jolly rotten luck.

Bumper Blyton are at Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, on Thursday and Chipping Norton Theatre on Friday.

Review date: 29 Aug 2021
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly George Square

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