Bard Overboard presents: a Global Pandemic Holiday Special

Harris Solomon
Extra Credit Ensemble and Fringe Management
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Bard Overboard presents: a Global Pandemic Holiday Special

With Bard Overboard, Extra Credit Ensemble shows how to make the best possible use of the techniques available for online theatre. The result is a polished, classy production that is bloody funny.

Wonder World Cruises decide the best way to reassure customers who have concerns about the coronavirus pandemic is to produce a heart-warming advertisement setting out their corporate goals. Perhaps it is not the best idea to use the guests who are travelling, and actors who are working, on a themed family cruise ship which is in quarantine. After all, the medical officer is visibly ill and a pretentious actor objects to the script, while another is just preening for the camera. There is the undeniable sense that, like our own dear politicians, they are out of their depth. Besides, those on board have not been able to disembark for eight months as no country will let the quarantined vessel dock and the guests are getting restless.

Author Harris Solomon squeezes every possible drop of humour out of ludicrous corporate jargon and behaviour. The Cruise Director of the ship has been appointed "Disaster Mitigation Liaison". Descriptions of the activities the guests enjoy most are interrupted by a rapid-speaking lawyer explaining why those events have been cancelled. Struggling to sum up the impact of the pandemic in an inoffensive manner, the suits conclude it has been ‘inconvenient’.

Director Alexandra Haddad imaginatively stages the play as an actual commercial, opening with black and white images of deserted streets and a solemn soundtrack. The interviews with the characters are staged, via a spilt screen, next to images of guests enjoying themselves on board the ship. It is a great success to the extent one wonders if it would be possible to make the play work so well on stage.

Bard Overboard works as both an example of how to make the best use of online techniques and, more importantly, as a very funny comedy. Extra Credit Ensemble is due to perform this August at the Edinburgh Fringe, giving audiences the chance to see if they are as good on stage.

Reviewer: David Cunningham