A wonderfully dark one-night stand of comedy and physical theatre – unlikely to inspire, but certain to show you a great night out.
It’s best not to have any expectations when it comes to gremlin culture. After all, who could have known that potato juggling was such a high-octane sport? That a tape measure could provide hours of entertainment? Or that a loaf of bread could become so endearing? And of course, who could have known that gremlins hold a dream to one day fly? It’s a dream they’d like to share with us, care of their newest and greatest venture, “Airlinius Hipopotaemus” – as per the namesake, an airline as aerodynamic as it is deadly.
On-board, each of your friendly cabin crew are given their opportunity to shine – dependable mechanist Gargarov (Kristian Santic) alternates between clown and cirque-du-soleil, as the somewhat less dependable Mofball (Caitlin Armstrong) oozes charm to quickly become the crowd favourite. Beleaguered “in-flight entertainment” gremlin Pensil (Thomas Albert) showcases his considerable musical talents, whilst in the captain’s seat Yadek (Daniel Gorski) charms the audience at one moment and terrorises his motley crew at the next – it’s chaos by design and it works well, even if the propellers won’t.
Like the gremlins themselves, the script doesn’t have much beneath the surface – there’s little depth, but it’s not necessarily required for an experience so engrossing and enjoyable. Slapstick & gross-out comedy take centre stage, but never become childish or over the top, allowing for surprising moments of poignancy. Production values are high across the board (set, special effects, costumes and make-up all deserving of praise), and small touches like swapping your ticket for mechanical parts are immediately acclimatising to the grime-punk aesthetic. In case of fire, economy passengers are encouraged to “burn in silence!”, black comedy providing the work’s highlights – despite which you could still give the performance a PG rating, so feel free to bring the kids.
While there are occasional fumbles, both physical and in delivery (the risks of the faux-eastern-european accent used heavily throughout), they’re easily written off as part of the work’s character. If there’s anything to nitpick, is that the best experience does require a clear view of the central set – grab an aisle seat if you can.
Overall, it’s masterfully executed, hilariously grim and delightfully madcap – The Gremlins is a joy to watch. It’s no surprise for a work so well practised to receive such glowing approval, but it’s well deserved for what is an obvious labour of love delivered by an enthusiastic and talented cast. If you’re still wondering what to see this year, wonder no more – grab a ticket, stow your explosives in the overhead compartment, and let The Gremlins take you for a once-in-a-lifetime ride.
Reviewed by Jason Lomas
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 12.