Review by David Knowles- 

‘Anything to Declare?’- The Gramophones ****

This silly, confident and energetic romp is the best evidence I have yet seen that Free Fringe is hit and miss. Anything to Declare is definitely a hit. The piece started with engaging audience interaction; taking pictures, labelling audience members with our hastily chosen destination and scanning our bodies with security wands (I should add that the play was mocking the idiosyncrasies one encounters on holiday before I get too carried away!). The piece began and we were introduced to the three main characters; a hopeless holiday romantic, an intense explorer and a harassed mother with two horrible children in tow.

“This silly, confident and energetic romp is the best evidence I have yet seen that Free Fringe is hit and miss. Anything to Declare is definitely a hit. ”

Each of these characters was explored wonderfully by the actors. The monologues the mother gave to her none existent children were in particular, hilarious and very reminiscent of Joyce Grenfell at her George don’t do that best . My stand out moment for the show would have to be, however, the dialogue between the two foot puppets (faces painted onto feet!) which was saturated by a ton of well placed foot puns.

What kept coming back to my mind was the idea that this was a piece of theatre that would have been very easy to do badly; to let unimaginative stereotypes and obvious observations dominate. It is testament to the skill and wit of the performers that this did not happen. The show’s tone was pitched perfectly and even one awkward moment with an audience member who booed at a rather tasteless Amy Winehouse joke was covered well. It must be said however that there were a few minor problems. Several of the skits ran too long which sapped the enjoyment one got from the earlier punchlines and some simply did not make too much sense at all (the frantic dance with the oranges is the perfect example).

All in all however a cracking evening, I certainly felt guilty having laughed that hard for free!

Review by Juliet Roe

‘Anything to Declare?’- The Gramophones *****

Taking place in a tiny cellar in Montgomery Street, this show proved to be a real diamond in the rough. What was the best thing about this show, was the sense of achievement you felt having found a genuinely witty, clever and yet delightfully silly sketch show in such a hidden corner of the Fringe.

“ It’s little shows like this which make the fringe great”

The four performers who made up the ensemble, all female, delivered their gags with expertly to a very receptive and inebriated audience. The sketches ranged from a stressed mother trying to control her children, to Foot Puppets and a dance routine involving hurling oranges at each other. The laughs for many of the sketches were due to their resemblance to real life situations blended with enough silliness to tickle even the more sober audience members in the room. The stressed out mother, for example, played by Ria Ashcroft, had parents in the audience turning to each other in fits of giggles at similarities to their own lives. The sketch which delivered a much more realistic Flight Safety Demonstration by the air hostesses of ‘Descent Airlines’ was such a simple premise and so well executed that it felt to me it should have already been done by some top comedian, and yet here it was in this tiny cellar.

The group kept the balance between the wit and silliness very well: sketches that required at least GCSE level French to watch yet which included Kath Akers weaving through the crowd sniffing out ‘les garcons’. The Foot Puppetry took the audience by surprise for its sudden jump into the completely surreal, but enough foot puns (‘I’ve got a bunion in the oven!’ was my favourite) and enough enthusiasm in delivery carried it. The ensemble’s skill was especially demonstrated in the way they managed to round off the sketches quite effortlessly, without any of the jerkiness often found in sketch shows. One of Akers’ characters, who was like an incredibly inept Bear Grylls was the only recurring sketch that very nearly went on for too long, but was saved by a good punchline.

It’s testament to the skill of these performers that they were able not only to fill the venue (quite literally) to the rafters, but that they had them involved enough to join in and pester reviewers for a good review afterwards. , and with two extra dates added (12th and 13th of August at 8.45pm, Cafe Renroc) this is one to see.

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