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Blow Out!, Etcetera Theatre

Kaye Conway
Directed by Jennifer Tang

Pros: Some very dynamic performances and a handful of genuinely funny moments.

Cons: The humour and drama of the piece failed to sync well together, so it felt segmented and was rather slow at points.

Our Verdict: Blow Out! features some genuinely talented and enjoyable performers, but it is not a very cohesive or consistently entertaining production.

Courtesy of FizzBang! Productions

When the first thing that happens to you upon entering a theatre is an actor offering you a shot of bright blue liquid, you may think you’re about to have the theatre experience of your life. That’s certainly the implication of the contents of the shot glasses – a fictional highly alcoholic beverage christened ‘Blow Out!’, which functions throughout the show to loosen up characters and wreak havoc. What ensues after you down what turns out to be slightly flat 7UP dyed blue is a similarly bland semi-farcical account of a sophisticated soiree gone wrong. Protagonist Denise’s attempt to throw a classy 30th birthday party is thwarted when her girlfriend, Jamie, invites a mischief making friend Trent to the festivities. This is then compounded by an even more unwelcome appearance by her Mother. While Blow Out! works hard to create a message about acceptance through elements of farce and domestic drama, the show itself fails to keep audience’s interest mounted. Much like the ‘Blow Out!’ brand party drink, the play itself doesn’t pack the punch it promises.

The trouble starts when Denise’s friends misinterpret her directions to ‘dress fancy’ as instructions to attend in fancy dress. It’s really all down hill from there, but it’s the unexpected guests that really do Denise in. First, the arrival of Trent, an infamous trouble-maker and the ex-boyfriend of Denise’s best friend Madi, who is a recovering alcoholic, sends the tight-laced hostess into disarray. He immediately begins his Puck-like enchantment of the party-goers, offering draughts of his highly illegal and dangerous liquor, ‘Blow-Out!’, in order to get the party going. The subsequent arrival of Denise’s mother, who is unaware Denise is a lesbian and that her flat mate, Jamie, is also her partner, spells the end of Denise’s hopes for a elegant celebration of her birthday, and it may spell the end of her relationship as well, since Jamie is made impatient and hurt by Denise’s refusal to admit their romance to her mother.

This plethora of catalysts sounds, on paper, like more than enough inciting action to create an excellent farce, and there is one buried in the cumbersome and inconsistent script. The trouble is that the play seems uncertain of where its identity lies: while there are certainly some very funny physical moments and a lot of excellent one-liner jokes, none of them seem to encroach upon the central plotline surrounding Denise and Jamie’s relationship. So, scenes involving the two main protagonists were the least interesting moments throughout the show. In fact it was the supporting cast, particularly Sam Buitekant’s portrayal of Trent, which really kept the attention and energy going. It was hard to connect to the central plot when scenes regarding the state of Denise and Jamie’s relationship lacked passion as well as the physical and verbal humour that defined scenes featuring Trent, Madi, and Denise’s brother, Lewis. Denise’s mother, Lorraine, played by Maggie Turner, was also much more enjoyable to watch when sharing the stage with Buitekant rather than Esther Shanson, who played Denise.

Not that Shanson and Natasha Alderslade (Jamie) lacked talent; on the contrary, the actresses were energetic and individually likable, but their storyline simply lacked the chemistry and passion it required to successfully deviate from the comical tone set by the circumstances and secondary plotlines, and it was then difficult to care much about the evening’s outcome. And while the show seemed to be aiming at encouraging a message of accepting oneself and one’s friends and family, it all seemed a little clichéd and weak with no strong glue within the script to tie it in.

The show featured two short but strange choreographed musical numbers as well, and a couple of pauses in which time froze but Trent was still able to act. These didn’t particularly make sense or increase the quality of the show at all, but rather served to leave my head scratching.

In other-words, despite some hard-working actors, Blow Out! just didn’t blow me away. Maybe I needed a real shot before the curtain went up.

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

Blow Out runs at the Etcetera Theatre until 1st December 2012.
Box Office: 020 7482 4857 or book online at !+Etcetera

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