The Camden Fringe is a Londoner’s anecdote for the anarchy of Edinburgh’s counterpart – a remedy perhaps for those tied to the capital and unable to taste the thespian flavours of the shows across the border. Much of this is exciting, innovative work that sits comfortably in the spaces the Camden Fringe inhabits – while other shows are unfortunately slightly less successful in satisfying those craving bold Fringe work.
How Does That Make You Feel? is certainly weekday-evening light entertainment – a simple yet intriguing narrative about a relationship counsellor having an affair with the wife of one of the counselled couples – a nice recipe for some inventive and witty comedic episodes. Writer John Hill has made the most of the concept, with banter-laced episodes that make the 50 minute runtime slide by.
Unfortunately, there are some major issues with the show (though rarely to do with the concept – infidelity is a rich source for modern theatre – just look at The Truth or the recent re-staging of How the Other Half Loved as evidence) there were some major flaws in the performance’s execution. The counselled couple never had more than a shred of believability in a way that jarred considerably – it seemed implausible that they were ever together, let alone going in for counselling after having two children
Director Manuel Bau needs to push his actors to really deliver the punch and pacing that elevates the comedy to something significantly funnier – the show never felt as though it went beyond a stilted set of gags that were set up one after the other. Ideas were picked up, used for the sake of a bit, then dropped and hurriedly forgotten. The excellent physicality of Tom Bonington felt entirely untapped, while Ethan Chapples never strayed beyond the angst-ridden yet lecherous counselor role he has from his opening line. Saria Steel too is given the shorthand here – characterised only by her libido and rarely by any other aspect of her personality.
There were some other creative issues too – it was strange seeing a regional accent only given to one member of the company, who often ended up as the butt of many of the jokes. As a Birmingham-raised reviewer I may have a personal bias, but it felt like a cheap ploy and exploiting a trope that should have been admonished decades ago.