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Scallywags, The Space

Presented by SOOP
Directed by Nathan Chapman
★★★★

Pros: Highly talented and dynamic cast, clever and simple design, interesting subject.

Cons: The stakes of the story often took a back seat to the comedy, leaving something to be desired from the conclusion.

Our Verdict: A fantastically funny and clever tribute to some unsung heroes of World War II – a history lesson without the lecture!

Courtesy of The Space

The first thing you should know about SOOP’s production of Scallywags at The Space is that the ensemble cast’s performances are engrossing and enjoyable – so much so that I was, miraculously, able to ignore the usually unbearable situation of having lost a contact lens shortly before the act break and continue on as an attentive and excited audience member. I don’t sit around with my arm awkwardly bent to cover one eye so I can see clearly out of the other for just any production, so it really is a testament to Scallywags strong, and hilarious first act that I was able to bite the bullet and continue on through the second with just as much gusto as I had in the first half, back when I still had fully functioning and unobtrusive vision.

The comedy theatre troupe, SOOP, is responsible for the production, which is a lighthearted tribute to real life secret auxiliary units organized by the British military in World War II as a preparation for potential Nazi occupation. Recruits for these forces were everyday folks – from dentists to boy scouts (no joke) – trained up by the British Resistance to protect their homeland as last resorts in anticipated times of crises. The Scallywags, as they were nicknamed, were shrouded in secrecy, and little remains known about many members of these units. The topic itself provided a unique and interesting jumping off point for a World War II era piece, but what was so delightfully refreshing about Scallywags was its success in avoiding the tropes of the genre. While one might expect a more somber or graphic tone for this kind of material, SOOP presents a brief glimpse of the Scallywags with charm and freshness as opposed to clichéd drama or over-done violence.

The stage is minimally set with a long cabinet as the primary piece, taking on the role of counter, bench, tunnel, and wall with each changing scene. A large radio barking out military updates and orders was located in the far corner, but the strong ensemble cast was without question the focal point; all five actors gave hilarious and energetic performances. Not only could the cast use their bodies to produce some top physical humor, but a cappella musical numbers throughout also proved their versatility and talent.

The show kept me laughing and engaged throughout, but I’ll admit it really was the charm of the characters and the curiosity of the situation more than the actual storylines of the play that kept me interested. Often scenes felt like brief sketches versus connected pieces leading up to a climax, which made it difficult to engage in or even identify the real stakes of the plot despite a vested intereste in watching the characters interact and fumble through their training and lives.

All in all, Scallywags was a treat. It was an interesting history lesson combined with some good old fashioned physical humor, and I look forward to SOOP’s future work and seeing the young members of the cast continue to thrive and entertain!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Scallywags run at The Space until 20th October 2012.
Box Office: 020 7515 7799 or book online at http://space.org.uk/?page_id=1409&event=scallywags

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