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Angry Young Man
Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh Fringe Festival


Andrew Haydon
posted 22 August 2005

Ben Woolf's Angry Young Man is being sold as a comedy about immigration. In many ways this is misleading. It conjures up images of earnest students creating sub-Ben Elton (the eighties comic, not the nineties hack) right-on material about how we live in, like, a fascist state, man. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Granted, the central character of Woolf's script is the surgeon Uri, an economic migrant from the Ukraine. But really, Angry Young Man is a picaresque romp round Britain in the manner of Waugh's Decline and Fall or Scoop. Indeed, this is writing more in the tradition of Britain's best comic novels by the likes of PG Wodehouse, than any political theatre you're likely to see on the fringe. It is the classic tale of an idiot savant, innocent abroad, who turns up in a strange city - in this case London - with a plan, only to be frustrated by a succession of increasingly bizarre encounters with a series of grotesques only to find himself back at square one by the end.

 

The four-strong company, all nominally playing Uri, tell the story to the audience in turns, while swapping seamlessly in and out of playing the other characters that he meets on his travels, employing a breathless and incredibly slick physical style, while at the same time managing to invest every character with a rare reality and truthfulness. The four strong ensemble, properly three actors (Hywel John, Gary Shelford and Alex Waldmann) as well as writer and director Ben Woolf - who is mostly relegated to playing an array of garden ornaments, animals and statuary, are uniformly excellent. While a series of brilliant visual gags perfectly compliment the witty script.

 

Playing to packed houses, largely on word-of-mouth recommendations, this is a young company at the top of their game and a delight to watch. It is an hour of non-stop frantic entertainment, which takes the tabloid obsession with immigration and turns it on its head for a play packed with pure theatrical exuberance.

 

 


 

 

 

 

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