The Anniversary

08/08/22

Pleasance Dome

Jim (Daniel Tobias) and Barb (Clare Bartholomew) are eagerly preparing for their 50th wedding anniversary but they’re not always in control of things and some of the items in the finger buffet might better be avoided. Still, they stubbornly insist that every last detail must be just right for their guests. As the clock counts steadily down to party time, the problems become harder to deal with…

This handsomely mounted helping of slapstick from Australian company, Salvador Dinosaur, features no real dialogue, just gibberish and the occasional mention of each other’s names – but the soundtrack is far from silent. It’s essentially a piece about the indignities of ageing, replete with references to forgetfulness, dodgy bowels and the ill-advised over-application of both prescription drugs and prunes. It ought to be tragic but it’s somehow horribly funny.

There’s a delightfully constructed set, a central corridor using forced perspective to make the place seem bigger than it actually is, and cleverly constructed props, designed to fall apart at inappropriate moments. A (mostly) hidden technician takes care of the show’s other ‘performers’ – a cat, a rat and a cuddly rabbit. Tobias and Bartholomew throw themselves into the clowning with gusto. We’ve seen and been impressed by both performers at the Fringe before, Tobias in The Orchid and the Crow in 2015, and Bartholomew in The Long Pigs in 2019.

What begins as silly slapstick metamorphoses steadily into something darker. The weather deteriorates and soon there’s a full-blown thunderstorm and rising flood waters to contend with. There’s a charming scene where Jim improvises a song about his long suffering wife – some Elvis styled mumbling with the occasional ‘Barb’ thrown in for good measure – and Barb’s headlong tumble onto a table laden with food actually makes me gasp. While you can spot some of the gags coming a mile off – put a rabbit and a liquidiser into the same space and the result is both inevitable (and inedible) – The Anniversary nevertheless has me laughing pretty much from start to finish.

If the conclusion is undeniably OTT, it still reinforces the fact that a couple who have been together for fifty years are always going to stick it out to the bitter end, even if some of that sticking involves kitchen knives. Those who relish clowning should give this a go. But be warned, if Jim offers you a taste of his pâté, perhaps you’d best say you’ve already eaten.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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