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The Victorian in the Wall

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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From previous Perrier award-winner Will Adamsdale comes this middle class musical about all the important things in life; composting, learning Spanish, floundering relationships and, most of all, knock-throughs.

When a third-sector worker, Fi, leavers her writer-cum-procrastinator boyfriend, Guy, to "site manage" the knock-through in their Victorian flat he is keen to avoid his own work (writing scripts for children's television) by helping the builder, Rob, with his work. When he pulls back the first strip of wallpaper, however, he is shocked to find a Victorian in the wall.

Rob seems to think this is a fairly common occurrence and happily continues his building work/reflections on his high-brow cultural experiences. For Guy, though, Mr Elms' status as a bona-fide Victorian has an improving influence upon him and his slipshod freelancing ways.

From being a man who ritually fails to complete his tax returns and pay his electricity bills, he becomes a man who is able to fulfil his Nike t-shirt slogan, but only with the help of Mr Elms and his adopted African man, Mr Fortunately Maybe.

With witty, sometimes plain silly comedy throughout, the Hackney-cycling-recycling audience members will find themselves the target of this gentle satire. It pokes fun at the newly-gentrified areas of London, where the creative middle classes flock to buy apartments that are still a bit edgy but not totally gentrified.

Guy in particular seems caught in a cycle of middle-class angst; he enjoys the freedoms of modern life but is trapped in a cycle of inaction - he longs for the structure that Victorian life offered Mr Elms, but certainly not at the expense of imperialism. The writing cleverly bridges comedy and theatre; it offers some morsels for thought but mainly sweeps the audience along from one daft interlude to another.

The highlight of Adamsdale and co-director Lyndsey Turner's production has to be the super-slick management of live sound effects which are controlled by cast members from the 'Foley areas' which skirt the floor plan of the flat. Recreating the sound of lighting a match to the collapse of a structural wall, the cast work flat-out to maintain the play's soundscape and, in the process, keep the audience in a permanent state of wonder.

The cast are a multi-talented bunch who handle multiple roles, shifts in time, the odd musical number as well as their duties as sound engineers. Adamsdale excels in the lead role as Guy, but his performance is matched by the rest of s cast who dazzle with their constant stream of energy. It's an inventive, slightly dippy production that leaves the audience with a heart-warming message which 'knocks through' all the rubbish of modern living and extols us to "try something new".

- Charlotte Pegram


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