Brighton Fringe: Jerry & Tom by Rick Cleveland: Quids In Theatre Company

31 05 2013

Jerry and Tom

Jerry and Tom are both professionals; one a master, the other a mere novice.

They are hit men. But just because your job is about death doesn’t mean it isn’t just as much about life, as Tom tries to work out where it all went wrong in this unique, dark comedy.

On Tuesday 28th May 2013 I went to see Quids In Theatre Company perform in the Temple Bar in Brighton. It was part of the Brighton Fringe and as I was on a short break it would have seemed rude not to take in a fringe show when I had the opportunity.

I discovered there was a 1998 film version but I am not familiar with it.

Three actors walked the audience through the troubled relatonship between a hitmen and his mentor as they handled their “marks”. Two current day scenes bookmarked the rest of the action performed as a montage of flashback sequences. The acting was energetic and engaging with compelling dialogue delivered in a naturalistic and conversational manner that helped audience members to engage with the characters. The mundane details of the characters day to day lives and concerns were juxtaposed with the sinister reality of their work and this helped to secure empathy and compassion from the audience.

The set design was good with clear suggestive staging; such as a counter drapped with bunting and promotional signs to suggest the interior of a second hand car lot, or a table dressed with oriental tableware and chopsticks to indicate a Chinese restaurant. However the transitions between scenes were laboured with multiple blackouts and much unnecessary shifting of chairs, sometimes only inches from their former position. This slowed down the action and did little to enhance the experience. The facilities at the Temple did little to help and the clumsy timing of lighting changes meant actors were often left speaking in darkness or moving between scenes fully lit.

Although I have not participated in a Fringe performance myself I am familiar with the contraints of working in a pub venue due to my murder mystery work. I was disappointed that the presentation at the Temple Bar was extremely sloppy. The performance was hampered by the economy feel and restrictions of the venue in many ways. The upstairs room provided for the occassion was cramped and uninviting. The wooden stools were uncomfortable and the proxemity to the stage meant that actors entrances were obstructed by audience members. The curtains over the windows were old and torn in places preventing a total blackout and the black backdrop was split down the middle to reveal the pub wall. The stage area was cluttered with debris which added to the amateur feel to the performance – although this was not necessarily the fault of the theatre company.

I am not a fan of props to be honest but given the restrictions of pub theatre I was surprised by how many scenes featured unnecessary props and costume changes. This not only slowed down transitions but made performance conditions even more difficult. It was an odd combination of eating actual fries and burgers hampering the vocal performances but in later scenes actors mimed eating noodles. The inconsistency was frustrating.

I was impressed by the quality of the individual performances and given the necessity in such a small cast to play multiple roles the differentiation between the characters achieved through token costume and accent changes, was impressive. Jamie Begg played the brooding Tom and Chris Begg successfully switched between a range of characters. Due to there being no program available I have been unable to discover the name of the third actor who captured Jerry’s twitchy nervous disposition.

I would be interested to see future work by this company with better production values and elements.

That said it was an entertaining night out and well worth the £5 per head to experience something a little different.

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