Sunday, 13 May 2018

REVIEW: The Final adventure of Frankie Fightwell at the Putney Arts Theatre

Is it a stage play? Is it a radio play? Is it a book? Is it a podcast? Well here in the Putney Arts Theatre as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe, Blackshaw Theatre present a unique experience as Chris Buxey's new work feels like all of them at the same time! It was a real treat to be part of the recording of the podcast , presented on stage as radio play recording about an author writing a book! Much of the enjoyment comes from watching the five foley artists creating the sound track to the story telling.

Stuart is an author who is now approaching sixty and lives in a one bedroom flat despite 14 years of success writing the 7 previous adventures of Frankie Fightwell as she battles the whispering moons, the vampire sharks, the silent station and other curious adversaries. However since the fifth edition sales are falling and his agent Dominic is concerned and suggests he needs to kill off Frankie to boost sales. His problem is that he can hardly distinguish between the characters in the books and the real people around him. Frankie was intended to inspire his wayward daughter Rachel and his writing process involves talking to Frankie in his head and he has not seen Rachel for three years. 

The presentation format means it is easy to switch from the reality of his flat, to his dialogue with his characters living in his head and to reading passages from the book. The Foley artists guide us both in their reactions to the actors and in the effects they created. My favourite was the sound of the removal of a live organ using a T-towel, a melon and celery. The audience too are involved making the gentle tutting sound of the approaching nazi man spiders under the control of Victor Von Fascist, who threaten Frankie in book eight , enhancing the finger tapping of the foley artistes. Our fun and occasional out loud laughter at the sound effects may not fully translate to the listeners of the radio/podcast. 

The three actors playing Stuart (John Rayment) , Frankie/Rachel (Abigail Morgan) and Dominic/Viktor (Tom Slatter) are almost upstaged by the foley artistes led by Andrew Crane but breathe life into the story. Abigail shows that Frankie is the girl that Stuart wanted Rachel to be and Tom creates the villain of the book and the real life. They even get a chance to show their enjoyment in the "pick-ups" at the end . The whole production is amusingly introduced by Ellie Pitkin and overseen by the "voice of god", the producer Vikki Weston. 

Chris Buxey has created echoes of Dennis Potter's Singing Detective with the mix of reality and fiction and interaction of fictional and non fictional characters together with references to Nazi's and mixed it with Lara Croft influences. It is great fun. It works because of the way Blackshaw have staged the event but some of the success may be lost if you are listening through the internet. 

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★
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