Gift of the Gab | Auckland Fringe 2015

James Cain does an amazing Alan Rickman impersonation. Let’s just get that out of the way and say that the show is almost worth seeing entirely for his amazing ability to pull off a number of accents but particularly, it’s his barely amused drawling tones of Severus Snape that will delight an audience.

And the rest of the show is quite fun too. A young purply pimple-faced cinema worker named Gab sets out to redeem the souls of those who risk being dumb-enated by the somewhat Faustian Rickman, who has sold his soul to celluloid in return for love. Appropriate for Valentine’s Day? Perhaps but high aspirations seem to be running low at this time of the year.

Gab teams up with none other than Sir Ian McKellen to take on the bad guy – whom all fans know is actually a good guy with just a pretty bad shampoo. Joining him in this bid to save future lives is Jennifer Lawrence, who is now running her own to-be-shortlived talk show called J-Law (not to be confused with singer J Lo), It turns out the heroine of the Hunger Games is in cahoots with Gandalf to bring down the evil potions master. And of course the big question is, will Gab save the day?

Riveting subject material? Not quite, in fact the storyline is probably the least developed aspect of the show. But in all fairness credit must be given to the fairly decent remix of a ton of movies. From classics such as The Labyrinth (1986) and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) to the Blues Brothers (1980) and Silence of the Lambs (1991), as well as a whole bunch of Disney – Aladdin (1992), The Little Mermaid (1989), etc – the mash up is interesting and generally quite fluid.

And of course a number of recent films from the last ten years including Garfield (2004), American Hustle (2014) and Downtown Abbey (2010), make the references easy for those who might not have a penchant for Hollywood cinema. Plus there are the compulsory Harry Potter snippets and Star Wars excerpts. Because what cinema worker, as Gabe exemplifies, would not have seen every single Star Wars film, not only in chronological order but also according to its release dates?  Such are the rewards of working in the cinema that we can, as our narrator tells us, “be close to the gods and decide if they are worth worshipping.”

The montages are interesting and James Cain is a brilliant performer with great elasticity in his varied impersonations and the stamina to rarely appear out of breath. This is impressive considering the high energy homage he pays to the blockbuster film alongside producing all his own sound effects. Both he and director Matt Loveranes are credited with devising this fun and playful romp that merges film with theatre, and while it doesn’t quite successfully interrogate the two forms (partially to do with the space and also because, irrespective of how captivating the visuals are, it’s hard to forget its being projected on a crinkled sheet) it is a successfully light and entertaining show.

Oliver Devlin’s sound design and original composition add theatricality and, alongside Rowan McShane’s lighting, Gift of the Gab might illuminate some of the darker sides of light comedy.

#film #theatre #devised #comedy #fringe