Friday 3rd August 2018 at The Tristan Bates Theatre, London.
Chewboy Productions’ Euan is a barmy new play making its debut at the Camden Fringe. The tag line gives fair warning: ‘This is a play about who knows what’, but you should know is that they’re not just being mysterious – they mean it. We quickly meet X (Georgie Bailey), Y (George Craig) and Z (Hal Darling), three guys living in some sort of basement space, not using real names, avoiding calls from ‘the boss’. The piece is a joint venture by all three cast members and sells itself on its quirkiness and gleefully bizarre storyline…or lack of.
Euan has been lost – but we don’t know who, or what Euan is. It’s all very silly, very loud and non-sensical most of the way. Yet what this new work lacks in purpose and clarity, it makes up for with confident, well-rehearsed performances from a cast with an eye for surreal, abstract and physical comedy. The comedy is best when it’s movement-based, and it’s perfectly synchronised as proof positive that this gang are not in actual fact making up the whole thing as they go along. There’s enjoyable talking at crossed purposes and some crisp monotone one liners from Hal Darling to tickle the rib cage. Craig has brilliant timing for both the verbal and physical and creates some brilliant moments of comedy with hilarious facial reactions while Bailey is particularly great with the physical. They’re a well matched-travelling band of weirdness too and bounce off one another at high speed, meaning that while thoroughly odd, it’s almost always entertaining in some obscure way and there’s no denying that all three are strong comics.
As the narrative builds, the nonsense takes over and there’s no resolution and almost no answers to any of the puzzles posed along the way. The sheer volume of exchanges gets a little harsh on the ears and the constant screaming arguments mean that a significant amount of the script is completely lost amidst the hysteria, which is unfortunate as the arguments do contain some of the good laughs. Despite the fact that the production is very self-aware and makes a running joke of it all, with each in turn apologising for yelling only to launch back into it thirty seconds later, it’s still just a bit too much and the production would benefit greatly from more discerning use of the high-energy, big bang moments to create some needed variety.
The ending feels unfinished and set loose, like some sort of floating chunk of ice on the Atlantic, yet it’s oddly funny, so in many ways this show fits the bill – it’s Bottom/ The Young Ones humour – all yelling, bickering and chaos with brief lulls in which there are attempts to carry the skeletal narrative forward. So all I can say is that this really is a hit or miss show – it’s not like anyone can say Chewboy Productions weren’t completely honest – I’m as clueless about Euan and the gang as I was when I went in, but found myself drawn into the madness by winningly buoyant performances from all three muddled mad men – make of it what you will!
Euan plays at the Tristan Bates Theatre until August 4th as part of the Camden Fringe and you can find tickets here.