Sunday, 10 June 2018

REVIEW: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Drayton Arms Pub Theatre

There’s something special about Fringe Theatre. It’s exciting and daring one moment and full of dissapointment the next but as an audience it keeps you on your toes. It’s a chance to see smaller shows that wouldn’t last for a long run anywhere else and appeals to a niche market and above the Dratyon Arms pub is no exception. 

Home for the next few weeks of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, this intimate space is perfect for it. 

Taking everyone back to the years of being in primary school with the set of a wooden floor, plastic chairs and a bench you used to be made to walk along in gymnastics. In that small space above a pub in west London it’s very immersive and nostalgic.

MKEC Productions state in the programme they aim to make quality fringe productions and 25th certainly is that. 

This production is rough around the edges but it’s fringe and adds even more depth to the production adding a whimsical childlike feel to everything presented to in front of you. The space being as intimate as it is, there really is no needs for a large band or microphones and I’m thankful they didn’t use any. The vocals of the performers were fantastic and it’s difficult to comment on any ‘stand out’ performances as everyone worked well with each other; voices blended well and everyone had their time to shine. 

I particularly enjoyed Lottie Johnson’s Logan Schwartzandgrubenniere. Her character was funny with the right amount of pastiche to an over achieving school girl: along with Elizabeth Chadwick, Inti Conde and TJ Lloyd, who played Rona Piretti, Mitch Mahoney and William Barfee respectively, really shone through. 

The actors on stage really handled the audience participation aspect of the piece well and if you don’t know what I’m talking about then I’ll let you find out on your own.

The heart of this piece is ‘The I Love You Song’. Amidst the chaos and pandemonium of the moving tables and dance routines this song shines like a radiant light. Emotionally stirring and beautifully sung by Conde, Chadwhick and Thea Jo Wolfe, who played the neglected Olive Ostrovsky. Truly stirring. 

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, is a masterpiece in fringe theatre. A whimsical, exaggerated caricature of a musical. Bringing together top notch performers and putting them into a space that tests everything they can do as performers. Truly wonderful and a spectacle to watch. 

You have one week left to see this great musical and I urge you to do so. I’m going again next week. 

Just say yes if anyone asks if you want to spell. 

Review by Samuel Clemens

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: D6 | Price of Ticket: £16
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