Twenty Twenty Two, Manchester
23 July 2017 to 30 July 2017
Bad Advice opens with Jim (Ryan Monk) waking up with two women in his bed and a man standing over them observing events. But all is not how it seems; from early age Jim has been prone to anxieties that either leave him incapable of taking action or prompt him to make impulsive decisions that he later regrets. Jim came out of the closet relatively late and now finds himself unable to make progress in his new lifestyle.
Bad Advice by Eli Keren is a play where the action takes place entirely in the mind of the protagonist. As in ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ (not the remake) Jim needs to learn how to overcome his internal doubts. The extra characters represent manifestations of Jim’s on-going internal dialogue with himself. Millicent Thomas (from the Young Companies at Contact and the RNCM) gives ‘Good’ advice; she is maternal, cautious and caring if a bit hectoring while Laura Anderson gives ‘Bad’ advice being impulsive and a bit malicious. She also knows how to make the best of an unusual catchphrase with ‘Touch his penis’ being her solution for most problems. Thomas and Anderson are a great double act becoming almost surrogate ( if dysfunctional) parents for Jim and playing off each other wonderfully.
Overseeing proceedings is a Narrator (Tom Feasby) who acts as Jim’s internal critic and mercilessly reminds him of his failures especially when he entered into his first Gay relationship with Paul (Macaulay Cooper).
Comedy is really hard to get right in fringe shows but Bad Advice doesn’t put a foot wrong. Eli Keren’s script has some great verbal gags; mainly delivered by Tom Feasby’s sarcastic narrator standing at the sidelines enjoying Jim’s discomfort. But the cast is just as confident with physical comedy. A particular highlight is the characters squabbling over which of them direct proceedings during Jim’s date that results in ‘Bad’ getting sent flying across the stage.
The cast also pull off the aspects of the play that look easy but are bloody hard to get right such as Macaulay Cooper ignoring Jim’s internal ( and hence invisible to Paul) advisers even though they are shouting in his face.
Witty, imaginative and very well acted Bad Advice should be sought out when it returns to Twenty Twenty Two on 30th July, 2017
Reviewer: David Cunningham