Review: Heads Will Roll (The Drum, Plymouth)

Told by an Idiot return with a new comedy inspired by the historic search for El Dorado

The clue is in the name of the company: Told by an Idiot. This is no ordinary theatre performance. This is crazy, madcap, slapstick, anarchic, charming and overwhelming storytelling with a massive dose of music, mayhem and mania.

It’s probably one of the most exhausting 90 minutes I’ve ever spent in the theatre. And that’s just as an audience member. Heaven knows what it’s like for the company of four on stage.

In Heads will Roll, we’re taken on a journey in search of El Dorado – the mythical lost city in South America where the rivers run with gold as a ruler, rich beyond dreams, covers himself with the precious metal before washing it off as his disappears under the surface of a lake.

Not, of course, to be confused with the legendary El Dorado, the mythical loss of around £10 million of BBC licence fee payers’ gold as the sex, sun and sangria TV soap opera sunk under the waves of critical disapproval and public disinterest.

I can’t think of many companies which would juxtapose the search by Conquistadors for lost gold – a perilous journey undertaken through jungle and across mountains – with a BBC executive’s budget-juggling search for ratings.

Sometimes it feels as if Told by an Idiot is throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks; what works and what doesn’t. This, of course, is a show which really comes to life in front of an audience and the performers work hard to bring us up to speed quickly with the most age-inappropriate classroom storytelling you’ve ever seen. It’s farcical and slapstick but certainly gets us in the mood for what follows.

It’s an important opening because it introduces us to four female performers – from Spain Mercè Ribot, Patricia Rodriguez and Alicia Martel and, from Colombia, Andrea Pelaez.

It would be hard to single out one performance, but I must mention the fantastic score from composer and versatile musician Alicia Martel which drives the narrative. That’s no mean feat as ideas whizz left, right and centre.

Did it work? Even director Paul Hunter describes it as "our experiment" in his programme notes. It was engaging and funny and uniquely charming as well as pulling a moving moment out of a Told by an Idiot bag of tricks. There is so much to absorb as the show careers along at breakneck speed that all the audience can do is hang on and enjoy the rid.

Heads will Roll runs at The Drum, Plymouth until 22 October before touring the UK.