Currently playing in The Studio at The Other Palace (Website: The Other Palace) this production is advertised as a ‘dudesical’ and explores that territory of male friendships and bonding – sounded both intriguing and funny.
Advertised as ‘ a comic misadventures of a group of friends after one fateful St Patrick’s Day in Chicago.’ we are introduced to and get to hear all about, the art of ‘Brotocol’ and what it means to be a real bro.
The Other Palace is a delightful performance venue which has a Gin Palace bar and several performance spaces as well as a great restaurant upstairs for pre dinner dining (The Other Naughty Piglet) all making for a great theatre experience.
I easily purchased my ticket via the venue’s online ticket site and promptly received an email with my e-ticket attached. This meant that I could simply show the document on the screen for the scanner to read the ticket – excellent and easy.
I arrived early so that I could have the obligatory Gin and Tonic (not an easy decision with the number of gins on offer!) and once the house was opened, I made my way to the studio.
The studio is in the basement of the venue and is a self seating affair so I would recommend getting there earlier to get a good seat. As you enter the venue there is a bar area and then a series of tables and table and chairs around the stage, so you can select to have a table or not. The venue intimate and this enhances the production.
The set is open when you take your seats and the stage was set with the props whilst the live band was located on the floor level front stage right.
At the back of the stage is a projection screen with an animation of an American football game playing on loop. There is a set of drinks optics complete with a cocktail menu with drinks such as ‘Point Break’, ‘Swayze Swig’ or ‘Reeves Rim’ all of which become relevant as the musical progresses. On the back wall on stage left is a sports logo for the ‘Pegs Legs’ (the dudes football team).
There are four rectangular boxes standing on three smaller square ends, making up the main props. Each block has a different use within the production. They all have a bar stool painted on one side so that it creates the illusion of a stool when the cast sit on them. Some have a side with two disks painted on making them look like speaker cones or wheels of a cart and two have sides which when stacked make a petrol pump. A taller box is at the rear stage right which has a standard lamp on one side, a painted stadium bench on another and a urinal on another – so it can be used for three items of props. All of these boxes start at different places on the set – one front stage right, one centre stage and one more middle stage left. Rear stage right is a bar area which leads to the middle back stage where there is a unit with wine bottles, a small drawer and draining board and full sink. Right at the front of the stage on stage left is a box (like a magazine rack) with various drawn props in, used for the production.
Smaller props such as bottles or pints of beer, a lap top, food packages are also made from cut outs, maintaining the same feel as the set.
All the set and props are drawn in white, grey and black and in a slightly comic style with odd perspective angles used particularly on the sink unit, similar in style to that used in the Paddington TV show credits, creating a very fun feel.
The set is excellent and adds to the overall masculinity and feel of the show.
An excellent cast of five make the characters come to life and each portrays their characters well with Esme Laudat playing several roles (at times creating trouble when they both have to be on stage at the same time!). It is clear that the cast have bonded during the rehearsal process as the production runs smoothly and the relationships between the characters is very believable.
Cellen Chugg Jones (playing Tom) is the ‘football hunk’ character who is ever so slightly dumb! He has a deep voice which suits the character well and his physique is one that fits the footballer school lad well. He has a strong singing voice and he manages to convey emotions well. He also creates a great contracts between the confident college lad and one who is ‘under the thumb’ of his girlfriend (Esme Laudat).
Joshua Gannon (playing Marty) is excellent as the almost geeky new boy who wants to fit in. He has a great stage presence and a brilliant singing voice that manages to hit the notes of his solo’s and duets well and adds to the character. He manages to play a tentative, career driven lad who is looking or something more and he finds this in the ‘Brotherhood’. I loved the duet between him and Dick (Robbie Smith).
Richard J Hunt (playing Harry) is excellent as the larger college lad who likes his food and snacks but has a heart of gold. He has a brilliant singing voice and this is used well with his solo number which, left the audience ‘wanting chilli cheese fries’! He has an energetic personality which is needed to convey the warmth of the character.
Robbie Smith (playing Dick) is excellent as the leader of the group. He manages to be both ‘bro-like’ but also with a softer side as the story unfolds. He handles the transition from the leader to the plotter well and has an energetic role which is managed well. A great singing voice means that he is able to deliver the power to the songs as needed. I loved the scene in Act 2 with him and Marty (Joshua Gannon).
Esme Laudat (playing all the female roles!) plays two major roles – a brash and sexually confident croupier who manages to ooze sexuality but be in control enough to allow the lads to coem to their own conclusions! As Marty’s (Joshua Gannon) English Girlfriend, she manages to provide a contrasting character to the croupier and one who manages to balance all the testosterone on stage. A great singing voice manages to hit some high notes perfectly and this draws you into the songs and plot even more.
Overall this is a brilliant ‘tongue-in-cheek’ look at what makes friends stay together, the weird things that will be overlooked and also asked of, under the banner of friendship. Some great songs are delivered well and the comic elements come thick and fast – now where can I get some chilli fries!! Go see!