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Camden Fringe: Trois Pour Cinq, Etcetera Theatre

Part of the Camden Fringe 2013
Maria Figgins and Adam Courting
Directed by Maria Figgins and Adam Courting

★★★

Pros: Short sketches that are far from formulaic and keep you guessing.

Cons: Some people may not readily understand the surreal and dark subject matter.
Our Verdict: A talented team with chemistry and an unconventional imagination.

Courtesy of Merlot Merlot

Theatrical duo Merlot Merlot (Adam Courting and Maria Figgins) write and perform their own material. For the Camden Fringe, they have produced a series of sketches, often with a surreal streak that have something deeper to say about life.

The first sketch, No Trailers – which was written by Maria Figgins ­– revolves around a couple who from the moment they wake up, cite famous movie quotes to each other. However, these quotes are not randomly spoken. Each has a specific emotional resonance. It is only towards the end of the sketch that you realise that the couple are homeless, and that the quoting of movies is a coping mechanism to deal with the harsh reality of living on the streets. A few months ago, I saw another group perform a sketch that similarly looked at a couple who were preoccupied with television and I did wonder what it would be like if they quoted catchphrases ad nauseum. Merlot Merlot have certainly done this, but managed to give the idea a thought-provoking twist.

Fosters – also written by Figgins – looks at parents and children, and the breaking down of the barriers between childhood innocence and ‘experienced’ adulthood. One of the most striking images was Courting (playing a child) being fed a ‘bottle’ of Fosters. It became very apparent early on that Merlot Merlot aren’t afraid to tackle dark subjects or have trouble depicting unconventional ideas.

Night Rises In The Dark, written by Courting, begins with him bolting on to the stage wearing a bloody shirt. While he is lamenting his actions, he is observed by Higgins, a lady with a lantern. This, of course, is reminiscent of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth following Duncan’s demise. While not Shakespeare per se, the language used was very eloquent and poetic. If I had to make one observation about this sketch, seasoned theatre-goers may have had an idea of what was going on, but not so much for the casual viewers, judging by the reactions of the people in front of me. Not that I believe in spoon-feeding, but of all the pieces that afternoon, that was probably the least accessible to a wider audience.

In the final sketch, A Jolly Good Roger, there was a welcome injection of levity, as Merlot Merlot ventured into pirate territory (the sea-faring kind, not illegal copies). Parts of the plot did remind me of Carry On Jack, but amidst the humour there was still time to make moments of serious points about language.

By all accounts the sketches performed at the Camden Fringe are just the tip of what Merlot Merlot have in their repertoire. It will be interesting to see their future projects and how their ideas will evolve over time.

Seen the show yourself? Agree or disagree? Submit your own review with our Camden Fringe Big Audience Project!

Sadly, Trois Pour Cinq at Camden Head is no longer running. Visit www.camdenfringe.com for more information.

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