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AS THE SMOKE CLEARS

8th June 6pm

There’s no denying that As the Smoke Clears is hilarious; a variety show using the structure of a WWII bunker’s inhabitants telling stories to drown out the terror of the bombs. Indeed, the golden nuggets of the comedy lie in the actors’ improvisation, and the wide array of characters they portray so effectively. From Antarctic yetis complaining about malting to an obvious German failing spectacularly to blend in to the perpetually bed-bouncing queen of Atlantis, the cast get as varied a bunch of roles as anyone could wish for.

Perhaps it’s this wide variety that’s the play’s undoing. Variety shows are always difficult to balance, and the setting of a war-torn bunker makes for a nice change from the cliché actors’ studio trying out new pieces. But I can’t avoid a slight disappointment that comes with not spending more time in the bunker with the main overarching characters. Particularly a scene where a character solemnly reflects on his dead step-father is cut too short, the emotional pay-off it should create feeling only half-delivered. It’s a shame, because that monologue really seemed to be building to something.

Some of the jokes are allowed to run on for too long. Many are perfect (the magical creature Clive, a ‘German show of hands’, Space Magic!) but once they’re repeated too often, they not only lose our interest but damage the original joke. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the difficulty of constructing this type of show and nothing can take back the huge amount of laughter had in that theatre. Hilarity is highly subjective, and it’s still a brilliant show, even if it does run a little too long.

Conrad Pollock

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