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This Was Your Life, Etcetera Theatre

Created by Quite Nice Theatre
Directed by Thom Sellwood

Pros: There is a strong possibility this show will put you in a very good mood. Lots of laughs. It is touching and wonderfully philosophical at times.

Cons: Some weak singing voices and a few sloppy bits here and there.

Our Verdict: A fun evening with lots of clever comedy, energetic performances and beautifully crafted songs.

Courtesy of Quite Nice Theatre

The Etcetera Theatre in Camden is one of the central venues of the Camden Fringe. A cozy little studio situated above the Oxford Arms on Camden High Street, it has housed some of the best fringe theatre for over 25 years and it is indeed a suitably intimate venue for this new play from Quite Nice Theatre company. I was slightly apprehensive about writing a review for a show which advertised itself as ‘a comedy play…of everybody’s favourite reality TV show’. My feelings of disdain towards this bafflingly popular genre have been a contributing factor in my decision to live TV-free for quite some time now. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

This Was Your Life begins with an invitation to the audience to decide on the eternal fate of a recently deceased contestant, Michael. Should he spend eternity in heaven or suffer the agonies of hell? In typical reality TV tradition, the viewers decide and we are invited to cast our vote at the end of the show. Soon we are transported through various scenes in Michael’s life to help us judge his character and decipher if he is worthy of entry through those pearly gates. The three actors on stage transform into 20 different characters with remarkable ease, displaying good comedy timing, notably Marina Waters whose lonely rapping grandad is a delight. Equally hilarious is Gavin Moore whose German Fraulein Mimi is one of the highlights of the evening. Will Guppy plays a variety of comic characters effectively but it is in his portrayal of an unhappy, isolated Michael where he really shines.

The stage is appropriately bare for a show such as this, apart from a few necessary props here and there. The costumes ranged from banal to bizarre but were always perfectly in keeping with the characters. The show features impressive original songs which help keep the audience clapping and toe-tapping throughout. However, the high standard of music is let down by relatively weak singing voices and the song lyrics were occasionally washed out under loud backing tracks. Some of the scene changes were a little sloppy in places but such problems were few and far between.

Quite Nice approach the idea of reality TV with considerable tongue-in-cheek and have created a show which does not take itself or it’s subject matter too seriously. It is a clever parody of manipulative TV producers, trash TV and the society who craves it. The show also has lots of heart and a real sweetness to it’s central character. Some of the scenes between Michael and his shrill fiancee Fiona are very touching indeed and her song ‘Life Will Always Find You’ is strangely ominous and philosophical. Like all good comedy, this show cleverly plays on the truths and hardships of real life to add weight and darkness to it’s story. The three talented cast members have been touring together since May which has given them time to develop well-rounded performances which surprise and delight in a show filled with energy, vigour and innovation.

Luckily my reality TV-hating self enjoyed the play immensely so thank you to Quite Nice for offering up a night of pure escapist joy far from the superficiality of the shows it sets out to parody.

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

This Was Your Life runs at the Etcetera Theatre until 23rd August 2012.
Box Office: 08444 77 1000 or book online at http://camdenfringe.com/details.php?acts_id=38

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  1. 3 stars seems a little mean for such a great review. Am seeing this show tonight, can’t wait! Have heard really good things about it.

    • Possibly, but 3 stars is still a great rating, and we are recommending that people see it fundamentally. There was a little bit of sloppiness in the changes though, and some slightly dodgy singing so it dragged it down a bit. Star ratings are pretty academic to be honest, it was still a good show :)!

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