Pros: An unfathomably funny story delivered by three comedic geniuses. It has truth, drama and catchy songs.
Cons: Just over an hour did not feel like long enough for such a wonderful musical!
The Ovalhouse repeatedly hosts fantastic new material by talented writers, and yet again they did not disappoint. It’s such a wonderful theatre with brilliant seating, a sizeable space and nothing less than a very warm welcome; I have fallen in love with this charming little theatre and the outstanding entertainment it provides.
How To Win Against History evades description, providing a cocktail of amusing anachronisms, relatable themes and buckets of sequins. This piece remains true to the original historic story of Henry Paget, the cross dressing 5th Marquis of Anglesey, who threw away the family fortune on luxury items, lavish dresses and performing plays to a small if even existent audiences. His family found his lifestyle so intolerable that they destroyed every trace of his existence. This fractured account of his history gives enough structure for an honest story but allows room to modernise and fabricate some parts for maximum hilarity. The multi-talented cast-members are able to laugh at themselves, which invites us as an audience to laugh with them, creating a chorus of giggly joy which never ceases from start to finish.
Seiriol Davies has undoubtedly written one of the comedy hits of the century, and is able to inject uncontrollable joy into the story of a forgotten icon of history. Though covered in glitter and partially obscured by flashy songs, the main theme of the story resonates strongly with a modern audience, and encapsulates that innate longing to be remembered in a world that may not accept you. It tells a story of “making society fit you if you don’t fit society” and revolves around a lovable-yet-ditsy protagonist, whose spirit is maintained by Davies’ incredibly comic and endearing acting. Davies’ whimsical voice, along with co-performer Matthew Blake’s deep vocals, produce some beautifully full harmonies that fill the entire space. And with Dylan Townley throwing out some catchy melodies on the keyboard, an entire orchestra is emulated with just three people.
Dan Saggars’ lighting design is replete with harsh edged spotlights, attracting attention, and obnoxious colours demanding notice. However, more vulnerable scenes are equally complimented by subtler variations of colour and softer throws of light. The beautiful exposed bulbs lining the minimalistic set are also gorgeous and play into the showbiz element of the show.
At the end of this blinder of a show, not a single audience member was not on their feet and I expected nothing less after this demonstration of pure theatrical excellence. The room was enthralled from beginning to end, and little more than five minutes went past without a raucous bellow of laughter. The atmosphere was that of friendliness and warmth (not just due to the fact that the Ovalhouse can sometimes heat up like a furnace) and the combined enjoyment of the actors really reflected onto the audience. This is a show the cast and crew clearly love, and the audience loved back in equal measure.
I cannot wait for this show to be well received at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and for Davies to get the credit he deserves for inventing such a masterpiece. If you asked me 10 minutes after the show finished if I wanted to see it again right that second I may have screamed ‘yes’ in your face. I really cannot praise this show enough or tell you how much you really must see it. Get yourself to the Fringe and get yourself a ticket!
Writer and Composer: Seiriol Davies
Director: Alex Swift
Musical Director: Dylan Townley
Producer: Aine Flanagan
Box Office: 020 7582 7680
Booking Link: http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/how-to-win-against-history
Booking Until: 23rd July 2016