Theatre: On the Fringe

Take it to the Green Light Barry The Grace Theatre n Platterback Battersea Arts Centre n The Last Thrash Orange Tree

BRIAN IS the kind of man who salivates over Countdown, thinks vegetarians are a dangerous political minority and knows the answer to every quiz question apart from "what is post-modern irony?" His wife, Sandra, twitches obediently to his every whim, fussing over the colour of his underpants or the fillings in his sandwiches. We're in the obsessive world of dubious knitwear, suburban pedantry and an acrylic sense of humour: Sandra and Brian are daytime game-show contenders.

Vanessa Brooks' extraordinary Take it to the Green Light Barry sets the nerdish duo on the threshold of their ultimate ambition of taking part in the eponymous quiz show. At first it seems we're in for no more than caricatured observations on game-show geeks, as we watch Brian adjust his penis-line in the TV dressing-room mirror by stuffing tissues down his trousers, or listen to Sandra coax him with a celebratory corned beef sandwich after their successful first round.

Slowly, however, a more sinister element creeps in as Brian's anal criticisms of his wife become ever more vicious. The audience's amused and patronising perceptions of their plastic lifestyle is replaced by the horror of witnessing an abusive marriage; suddenly two-dimensional tokens of naffness are three- dimensional symbols of a tragedy.

The success of this low-budget production is due to the refusal of Michael Chance, as Brian, and Julia Russell, as Sandra, to ham up their characters for easy laughs. Even at his funniest, Chance is focusing on the poison inside Brian's character, while Russell is touchingly convincing as she trembles in fearful adoration. The sinister undertones are set for the shocking denouement, and it is a mark of the acting skill of both that, as the emotional pendulum shifts, the same absurd lines that made you laugh 10 minutes before, now make you gape in horror.

More wholesome forms of love are celebrated in a one-off performance, part of A Sharp Intake of Breath, a festival of innovative music theatre at BAC. Platterback uses an electric cello, an accordion, a piano and two singers to build the soundscape of a railway journey accompanied by the reminiscences of its passengers. It plays with noise as a master chef plays with ingredients, teasing rare and unexpected qualities out of each musical medium to serve up a dazzling display of sound.

Take, for instance, Stanley Adler on the electric cello. His flamboyant performance stretches common perceptions of the cello's identity, driving it through a range of scrunching train sound-effects, jaunty blues-style pizzicato, soulful undertones to the singers' voices, and beautifully executed virtuoso flourishes. Karen Street taps into the lyrical and surprisingly passionate qualities of the accordion, while Mike Westbrook, an eccentric panama-hatted presence at the piano, plays almost in a trance, totally at one with the music.

The singers are overtly there to create the narrative, but the evening is more about moods and sounds than about stories. John Winfield sings about love and yearning as if each note is torn from his soul, while Kate Westbrook sings in a low, throaty tremolo, moving easily from the pathos of the song "Love Letter from Stiltsville" to the satire of "Boiled Beef".

The hero of her song - a British ambassador - would probably be familiar with the prep-school terrain of David Cregan's new play The Last Thrash. This well-acted production does little to go beyond this cosy world with its stereotypes of masters writing love letters to boys, Churchillian headmasters and over-ambitious mothers. An audience still celebrating such values clearly loved it as theatrical comfort food. I suspect they are an endangered species.

Rachel Halliburton

`Take it to the Green Light Barry' (0171-794 0022) to 23 May; `A Sharp Intake of Breath' music/ theatre festival (0171-223 2223) to 15 May; `The Last Thrash' (0181-940 3633) to 5 Jun

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all