Falling Pennies Theatre Company return to Camden Fringe, once again setting up camp at the Etcetera Theatre. Their new play was penned by Doomed Resistance writer, Simon Godfrey, and is another foray into farce – though this time switching World War One for a spooky graveyard. It made its full debut at Plymouth Fringe in May.
Mr Benson can’t sleep – perhaps it serves him right for living in a converted church with a graveyard still attached… He starts talking to what he refuses to believe is a ghost, trying to find a rational explanation despite his growing frustration with the voice; his excitable wife, Katerina, is more convinced about the supernatural, however, and eagerly fetches her ouija board to try and converse with the ‘ghost’ that way. Mr Benson’s approach is to call the police, though he starts to wish he hadn’t bothered when he’s landed with the incompetent police officer Constable Wilkie. Are they really dealing with the occult? Or is it simply a criminal’s ruse?
Imagine Monty Python crossed with Ghostbusters, and you’re getting there… What’s great about this play is that it’s not afraid to embrace its innate silliness, with all manner of completely ridiculous things going on – not to mention the diversely bizarre characters we encounter. There’s a place for anything on the fringe (which is part of the reason why I love it so much), including supernatural farce such as this. Simon Godfrey is skilled at peppering a show with great jokes & one-liners, whilst ensuring it doesn’t completely descend into chaos; the drive of the story is never neglected, and the characters are developed throughout the course of the play.
Despite its simple setup, it’s actually a rather ambitious piece. The characters find themselves in different parts of the graveyard during the play, and these changes of location are enabled thanks to a series of playful scene transitions. Georgia Harris’ direction suits this play down to the ground, maintaining an element of fun at all times – and this cast of four is charming enough to make it work. They definitely don’t take themselves too seriously which really allows it to fly, and means that even bolder, sillier choices can be taken (such as owl-based incidents…).
Whilst it could potentially be done with an extra actor, it’s always fun to see a bit of doubling, and Darren Latham throws everything into the roles of Constable Wilkie and the Groundskeeper – he certainly makes them distinct from one another (each has a very distinctive voice & demeanour), with a few quick changes into the bargain. Alexa Hartley captures Katerina’s impulsive nature – and her enthusiasm for all things risky & strange. Toni Peach provides some great voice acting as “Sam”, full of expression and with great comedy timing – plus a brilliant Southern Belle accent, I do declare! As the slightly old-fashioned victim of sibling rivalry, Mr Benson, Ryan Penny is hilariously straight-faced, but also prone to outbursts of fear or rage, His comic delivery is spot on, and both he & Hartley interact engagingly with the “dismembered voice”.
My verdict? Beyond The Grave is another cracking play from Falling Pennies, providing great comedic escapism for just under an hour – direction & performances are spot on.
Beyond The Grave runs at the Etcetera Theatre (as part of Camden Fringe) until 14 August 2018. Tickets are available online or from the box office.