Pros: The vintage feel of this new work is delectable.
Cons: The plot unfolds at a sustained pace, which is sometimes hard to keep up with.
Comedic playwright and flamboyant performer Benjamin Alborough’s visionary approach to art is fully reflected in his first play, Cream Tea and Incest. Researching for this review, I stumbled across his personal website where, together with a very eccentric description of himself, I found a section dedicated to establishing the best adaptation of A Christmas Carol. To carry out his task, Alborough did what he calls “A Chradvent Carolendar”, or rather watched a different version of the classic each day of Advent and reported about it on his blog. Admirable.
In Cream Tea and Incest he recreates the classical Edwardian farcical adventure. Frivolous aristocrat Lord Wiggins (Aidan Cheng) is due to inherit Rhodesia upon his marriage to Emily Rhodes, but their romance is on the rocks. Fortunately Eddie Spangler (Benjamin Alborough) – a gentleman in a boater suit, what else – sets out to rekindle the couple with the assistance of his loyal servant Jeffrey (Eoin McAndrew).
Meanwhile, the evil Lord Biggins (Edward Spence) lurks in the shadows, embittered by his father’s choice to leave the family estate to his brother Wiggins, who is considered to have a better name than his older sibling. Whilst Biggins tries to reinstate his inheritance and Eddie Spangles strives to ingratiate himself to Wiggins, bodies start piling up on the floor.
“This is as English as cream tea and incest,” says one of the characters, and I wonder if that’s a commonly accepted truth.
The plot is complex and I couldn’t always follow the finer details. The same four actors play many minor characters, often with a barely noticeable costume change. Also, not all of them are equally skilled at variating their tone and posture according to the role.
Contained at sixty minutes, this nonsensical jumble of events and absurd accidents delighted the audience, whose loud laughter was our constant soundtrack throughout the play.
Camp, fast-paced and meticulously crafted, this highly effective comedy boasts smart and inventive writing, spirited performances, as well as a totally out of the box design. Well, not quite literally so, as the entire set consists of cardboard cut outs on which the props have been drawn with a black marker.
The offering might be unsuitable for those who like to watch a play that gives them food for thought, as well as those who need time to absorb the lines. Blink and you’ll miss the countless puns or the detailed elements of physical comedy.
Personally, I was charmed by Cream Tea and Incest‘s delectable vintage demeanour.
Author: Benjamin Alborough
Director: Benjamin Philipp
Producer: The Hope Theatre
Booking Until: 28 April 2018
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: http://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/cream-tea-incest/