Never Try This At Home

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JOYCE MCMILLAN on NEVER TRY THIS AT HOME at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 29.3.14.
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4 stars ****

IT’S NOT QUITE in the same league as Rob Drummond’s chilling Quiz Show, seen at the Traverse last year. Yet for all its light touch and deliberate silliness, this latest touring show from the London-based group Told By An Idiot, co-written by Carl Grose, offers a thoughtful and strangely satisfying reflection on the history of madcap Saturday-morning British television shows for children, and on the ways in which that history is now tainted by our understanding of the sexist, racist and abusive attitudes behind what was once seen as harmless family fun.

The lynchpin of the show is Niall Ashdown’s subtly sleazy performance as the host of a contemporary television chat show that brings together people who once shared a past experience; on this occasion, the stars of a children’s television show called Shushi, which went into meltdown one Saturday morning several decades ago. There’s undeniable fun and slapstick as the five other cast members act out archive scenes from Shushi, a sudden lurch into horror as things turn nasty, and a real chill in Ashdown’s 30-years-on interviews with the cast members, some in complete denial about their guilt, others still broken by their experience. Petra Massey turns in a particularly fine performance as the only woman in the team; and there’s also a band called Vertebrae whose presence seems oddly healing, as their music does that 1970’s thing of ripping the brightly-coloured surface off the decade, and revealing some of the pain beneath.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, final performance tonight.

ENDS ENDS

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