In the sweetest moments of comedy often lie hints of poignancy, and vice versa, but Derailed, the latest offering from Little Soldier Productions, struggles to activate this natural relationship. Had it succeeded, the various elements of an often frenetic performance would probably have hung together better than they do. For whilst Derailed is billed as a ‘blow-out gig-theatre leaving party’, where the performers and audience will ‘drink, eat, dance, laugh and cry together’, in the end it left me feeling like an uninvited guest.
Glitteringly be-sequinned Patricia Rodriguez and Merce Ribot lead us down their own memory lane in the company’s first autobiographical piece, reflecting on the frustrated ambitions, failed efforts and odd notable success of a decade or more spent in the UK. Post-Brexit, it’s time to take stock and ship out; a very human story, which should be relatable for many. Rodriguez in particular bursts with tireless physical comedy, and Ribot’s passion can’t be doubted as the two ask us all to consider the difference we make to others around us. But the transition from sentimental leaving party to telling childhood memory or political statement feels clunky, and the musical interludes are hit and miss, leaving me feeling baffled rather than emotionally engaged.
Supporting, Dan Lees is a fine clown, reading the Ovalhouse audience well with intimate stand-up patter, whilst remaining very much part of the performance. In the long tradition of clowns acting as go-betweens for players and audience, you still appreciate his role despite the immersive nature of the show, oddly a touch of order amongst the zanier leads. Keir Cooper meanwhile, is mysteriously under-used.
Goncalo Carvalho and Marta Szynkiewicz’s efforts in design and costume can’t be faulted, and the interactive elements of Derailed are pretty strong. Video glimpses into the actors’ changing room, an online petition we’re encouraged to sign throughout the show, even a Skype call to papa, are all diverting enough to make you take notice. But it can’t make up for the overall lack of message and narrative structure to the play.
Leaving too much to improvisation, the undoubted potential of this concept withers on the vine, delivering a hundred snapshot performances with more duds than winners. Ultimately, dragging the audience on stage, or making everyone give each other a hug (this happened), isn’t the same as engaging them.
Derailed is on until 3 March 2018 at Ovalhouse. Click here for more details.