Home » Reviews » Comedy » Hoke’s Bluff, Shoreditch Town Hall – Review
Credit: Alastair Muir
Credit: Alastair Muir

Hoke’s Bluff, Shoreditch Town Hall – Review

Pros: Hugely fun, eccentric and thought-provoking – plus freebies and audience participation!

Cons: Fairly unconventional and not for people looking for a standard theatre experience.

Pros: Hugely fun, eccentric and thought-provoking – plus freebies and audience participation! Cons: Fairly unconventional and not for people looking for a standard theatre experience. There I was. 11 years old. Standing on a stage in front of hundreds of my schoolmates. Dressed in nothing but a bed sheet wrapped around my waist. Staring down Titch, the shortest kid in class, equally naked, equally wondering what the hell he was doing. I had directions: run at him, grunt some racist Japanese mimicry, then toss him over my head. Where he was to land, I did not know. Forsooth, I…

Summary

Rating

Excellent!

An imaginative and original piece that cleverly uses a sparse cast to great effect.

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There I was. 11 years old. Standing on a stage in front of hundreds of my schoolmates. Dressed in nothing but a bed sheet wrapped around my waist. Staring down Titch, the shortest kid in class, equally naked, equally wondering what the hell he was doing. I had directions: run at him, grunt some racist Japanese mimicry, then toss him over my head. Where he was to land, I did not know. Forsooth, I did not care. And now I stood sweating, stomach rumbling like an I’m a Celebrity wantaway, oriental eyeliner running down my cheeks – dirty knees – that un-PC rhyme might finally come true – dirty backs of knees more like, as my insides prepared to trickle away…

The pressure of being a prepubescent comedy sumo wrestler was, thankfully for me, short lived. For high school sweethearts Tyler and Connie – played by the magnificently energetic Action Hero team of Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse – pressure is something they have to deal with every day. This was Hoke’s Bluff at Shoreditch Town Hall, a production set in small-town America about a teenage sports hopeful and his cheerleader girlfriend. Yes, I know… the setup sounds about as original as a Bob Geldof-produced charity single. Maybe Bono will emerge as one of the cheerleaders, I thought to myself. He gets bloody everywhere.

In fact, it was highly original. And there was a Bono-free cast of just three actors, who doubled up as Coach, bezzies, sports commentators – this could have been a mess but it all worked well. A reason for this success was the clever use of the audience as extra characters: at one point Coach would start berating a bemused face in the front row, even soliciting a nod from them with the question “Do you understand?” These moments added a great spark of humour to an already uplifting experience.

Indeed, the nature of the venue – large space, wooden flooring – made you feel like you were at a basketball match; Tyler and Connie’s story was told almost as if it were a sports report, broken up by a referee (Laura Dannequin) garbling nonsensical sporting terminology. Every so often a furry mascot was on hand to gee up the crowds, and at times even dished out free popcorn and T-shirts to some lucky revellers. I hadn’t felt this well-looked-after since I stumbled into a FIFA board meeting. I just wish Sepp Blatter hadn’t done that striptease at the end.

All in all it was a surreal comment on life and society, both touching and mysterious with a hint of the Donnie Darkos about it. The fact that the (very accomplished) actors spoke in British English despite the play’s Americanness added to its oddness, and the melancholic story that emerged really did pull at the heartstrings (helped by a sumptuous pop soundtrack). At the end, it all boiled down to whether Tyler could handle the pressure – something I had to face all those years ago. I don’t remember what actually happened on that fateful night. All I know is that I now have an inherent fear of Wagamama’s.

Authors: Action Hero with Nick Walker
Producer: China Plate
Booking Until: 29 November 2014
Box Office: 020 7739 6176
Booking Link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/62620

About Jack Wake-Walker

Jack Wake-Walker
Gameshow Developer. Jack works in TV and has devised shows such as Ice Dreams, the frozen alternative to Great British Bake Off, and Tankenstein, a destructive quiz show involving a tank. Neither has yet been commissioned. He was an extra in the Bond film, Skyfall, and played a zombie in Derren Brown: Apocalypse. Neither was as fun as they sound. To counteract his low-brow career, Jack makes pretentious documentaries and video art pieces in his spare time. He enjoys theatre, in particular the weird kind, and is pleased to be part of a predominantly musical-hating blog.