Oog and Cabaret from the Shadows

Al Seed (Oog) & Cabaret from the Shadows
Unity Theatre, Liverpool

Double-bills. What’s not to like? On the one hand you get two shows for the price of one (sort of) and on the other hand if one show sucks, the other show might just save the day. Such indeed was the case at Friday night’s PhysicalFest offering at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre.

Al Seed’s intriguingly entitled one-man show, Oog, kicked off the evening in fine style. Taking for its theme the fallout of war, specifically, shell shock, Oog is a powerful as well as disturbing piece of theatre.

Emerging from his own shell, tortoise-like, from centre front of stage, Seed’s ex-soldier is a twitching mass of spasms, a tormented soul unable to be still for even the briefest of moments.

With his painted joker face, sinister as it is sad, frenetic movements and pumping, hypnotic soundtrack, for one moment it’s as if you’re witness to a Prodigy video. Fire-starter he is.

If you think a man sitting on a stool twitching violently for sustained periods of time sounds a little unpromising, you’d be wrong. Seed is utterly compelling. The whole performance takes us into the realms of madness.

Seed’s lithe physique allows him to ably express his inner turmoil. Tongue, eye-balls, not a single body part is spared engagement in this performance. The shock waves really do permeate Seed’s entire being.

Helicopters overhead and suddenly we are pitched into Apocalypse Now territory, red-light infusing the stage and with it bringing to mind Scorcese, Brando and Sheen.

Oog is a show rich in suggestion. Although Seed’s performance arguably goes on for ten minutes longer than is optimal, in terms of originality Oog scores very heavily.

Which brings us to the second half of the bill and to Cabaret From The Shadows, all of which goes to prove that it’s not just football that’s a game of two halves.

To quote the politicians, Let’s be very clear… this was most definitely not my cup of Darjeeling. Can’t be clearer than that. Read on.

Cabaret is an evocative word, so too is shadows. Put them both together and expectations must surely soar through the roof. Perhaps you imagine turns vampish and risqué, perhaps you secretly hope to be titillated and teased in equal measures.

In the immortal words of Simon Cowell, perhaps you want to see danger or at least the illusion of danger. At any rate you wish to be delighted. That’s where the problems begin.

Cabaret from the Shadows is frankly a bit of a mess, rather like one of those auditions oft seen on Mr Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent. At least on that show the panel have buzzers; no such luck at the Unity.

Yes, the performers give it full whack and admittedly they do look rather fetching. Clad in their steampunk outfits, there’s more than a touch of New Romanticism here. But it’s just not enough.

All too often, the content is uninspired, the humour flat. Silly hats and costumes have their place, but in this show it’s very much a case of all that glitters is not gold. Above all else, this show that is simply crying out for a strong sense of artistic direction.

Reviewer: David Sedgwick

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