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Review of Cream Tea and Incest at The Hope Theatre

Cream Tea and Incest at The Hope Theatre
Cream Tea and Incest at The Hope Theatre

I don’t really know where cream tea and/or incest comes into play in Cream Tea and Incest, a rather barmy story set in York at the start of the twentieth century. The upper class clipped tones and formal attire bring Noel Coward’s plays to mind, particularly as two of the characters go by Lord Wiggins (Aidan Cheng) and Lord Biggins (Edward Spence). And then there’s Eddie Spangler (Benjamin Alborough) and his trusty butler Jeffrey (Eoin McAndrew), one of those people whose non-financial employment benefits more than compensate for poor remuneration. Those are the on-stage characters as the programme lists them: these are supplemented by a number of others that would, if only the programme had said so, fall under the category of, “Other parts will be played by members of the company.” Then there are off-stage characters, spoken of and reminisced about, and not always fondly.

I didn’t, to be honest, follow every detail of the narrative, partly because the show rattles through at such a pace it can be a tad difficult to keep up with it. Most of the time, though, the timesaving devices deployed are useful, merciful even. At one point a long train journey is suddenly truncated, so as not to bore Eddie, and therefore not to bore the audience, and almost instantaneously it is assumed Eddie and Jeffrey got to their intended destination without too much bother. Fair enough.

There is a lot of humour in this brief performance, though it is of a very silly (and very British) nature – this is the kind of comedy where PG Wodehouse meets Monty Python. There will be those that love it and those who, well, won’t. There was (shock horror), a slip up at the performance I attended; I couldn’t work out whether it was scripted. I suspect not, but with such comical writing anyway, there remains an element of doubt. Either way, it was handled brilliantly and raised the level of already raucous laughter by a few more notches.

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The props are largely made of cardboard, which makes, for instance, Jeffrey’s horror at Spangler’s (cardboard) gun, absurd and yet demonstrative of convincing acting of the highest order. The (spoiler alert) body count starts to add up, which might have made the final scenes gloomy, but the play brings itself back to jollity: quite how really would be revealing too much. I liked a lot of the plays on words, some of which were so sophisticated that members of the audience reacted to punchlines at different times as they worked out double entendres and analogies.

But – and this is, unfortunately, a significant point – there are considerable holes in the plot. I appreciate it is deliberately illogical in parts in order to add to the jocularity of proceedings. Still, I was shaking my head at how ludicrous events were becoming, and on occasion, the weirdness overcame the wittiness. The complete lack of female characters (whether or not played by women) seemed odd. Nonetheless, the comic timing is spot on in this dynamic and enthusiastic production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Romance! Adventure! Murder! Aristocrat Eddie Spangler and valet Jeffrey must learn the meaning of these words and more in this new knockabout Edwardian comedy. Delight in their capers, mix-ups, and the dead bodies left in their wake.

We follow Eddie Spangler, an incompetent but optimistic Englishman and his loyal valet, Jeffrey, as a simple matchmaking quest quickly deteriorates into a race against time when the Machiavellian forces of the aristocracy move to wreak their vengeance. Lord Wiggins is set to inherit Rhodesia upon his marriage to Emily Rhodes, but their romance is faltering. It is up to Eddie and Jeffrey to sort Wiggins out as quickly and violently as possible. Meanwhile – the evil Lord Biggins lurks in the shadows, waiting to execute dark schemes of his own…

From a sell-out run at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe comes the world’s first 2.5 dimensional show set in a world where every prop and set piece is made out of cardboard. Think The Play That Goes Wrong meets Jeeves and Wooster meets Diary of a Nobody with a little bit of American Psycho thrown in for good measure.

Cast:
Benjamin Alborough – Eddie Spangler
Eoin McAndrew – Jeffrey
Aidan Cheng – Wiggins
Edward Spence – Biggins

cream tea and incest
writer: BENJAMIN ALBOROUGH / director: BENJAMIN PHILIPP
10 – 28 April 2018
http://www.thehopetheatre.com/

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