Published on June 17th, 2014 | by Niall Norbury0
Review: Snakes! The Musical
Debuting at last year’s Reading Fringe Festival, Snakes! The Musical went on to become the surprise hit of the Edinburgh Fringe – receiving 5 stars from FringeGuru and coming in fifth out of 2,871 shows in The List. Thanks to their sell-out run in Edinburgh, Quite Nice Theatre will be bringing their production to London’s West End later this year. But first, they returned home to Reading to help raise funds for this year’s Reading Fringe.
Yet despite the acclaim I still went into the play sceptical: I feared the central joke of the piece would become tiresome quickly. Or the premise – a musical about a musical version of a certain Samuel L. Jackson movie – would be a little too smarmy. Metafiction can either be brilliantly funny such as Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, or simply exist to make up for the lack of content. It was to my surprise to find myself roaring with laughter within the first five minutes.
There are two narratives in Snakes! The Musical: the first is the eponymous play-within-a-play – a fantastic pastiche of disaster movies. The second narrative follows the production company attempting to pitch the play to a roomful of theatre investors and producers a.k.a. the audience. What’s more, there are only three actors: each playing a version of themselves as well as multiple characters within Snakes! The Musical. Confusing? A little. Hilarious? Absolutely.
Often pastiches can be as embarrassing to watch as the thing they are trying to parody, but Quite Nice Theatre succeeds by understanding the silliness of the central concept. Never taking themselves seriously, even when they break the fourth wall, the audience is kept entertained and can embrace the ridiculousness of the play. The actors genuinely look like their having fun up on the stage, and their excitement inevitably rubs off on the audience too.
The one thing that surprised me most was the quality of the songs. They managed to achieve the rare feat of being both incredibly funny and extremely catchy. While I laughed at the lyrics during the performance, I found myself humming the tunes the next day. From the emotional ballad ‘Something Snakey‘ to the knowingly camp ‘Guilty‘, every number in Snakes! The Musical is a unique gem.
Usually, when reviewing a performance certain members of the cast stand out. Snakes! The Musical is one of the few times where I felt each of the cast members put in an equally entertaining performance. Marina Waters’ voice amazes you even while she is making you laugh, Will Guppy has the amazing ability to transform himself into a completely different character with a blink of the eye, and Thom Sellwood manages to hold the play together as the insufferable yet likeable director.
The one thing this review neglects to mention is how funny Snakes! The Musical is. It hits you with jokes so rapidly that you find yourself laughing two punchlines behind, desperate to catch up. Upon leaving I understood why Quite Nice Theatre’s production became a cult hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, and I have no doubt that their run at the West End will be equally loved.
Snakes! The Musical will be playing at London’s Leicester Square Theatre from 25th September to 19th October. You can catch their latest production, At the Edge of the World, at this year’s Reading Fringe Festival.