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The Spandex B*stards: Below The Belt
Etcetera Theatre
10th August 2015


Publicity image for The Spandex B*stards: Below The Belt

Photography provided by (il)logical theatre

It's only logical that there must be some truth in the age-old saying "write what you know." Some of the best shows I've seen have been the most personal tales, with the playwrights pouring their hearts and souls into their scripts, sharing the most intimate details of their lives with us. However, new company (Il)logical Theatre defy all convention, and admit to knowing nothing about professional wrestling, the theme of their Camden Fringe debut. That probably explains a lot - after all, is it really standard practice for members of a local boxing club to fight to the death? Living up to their name, the company somehow deliver a hilarious new piece of writing, which fills in all the gaping plot holes with a huge amount of self-awareness and infectious humour.

Following the death of his mother, GBBO fan Elliot (Harry Reeve) puts down his mixing bowl and spoon and instead pursues a career of professional wrestling. Dying wish and all all that. Elliot doesn't seem the type to make it in the ring - after all, he's a scrawny, pasty little boy in spandex with no muscle, and no special wrestling name. However, with nothing but enthusiasm and charm, he soon befriends some of the sport's finest, such as Sexy Fireman (Chris Hoare). It's all starting to look vaguely positive until club manager Dr Insano (Eoin McAndrew) arranges a series of death matches between The Kommissar (James Alston) and the rest of the gang.

The initial comedy comes from the ensemble of six dressed in spandex and looking silly, but that wouldn't be enough to sustain a full hour of laughs and indeed, it isn't called upon to. There are actually a number of complicated back stories and subplots, such as the fledging romance between The Enforcer (Dylan Frankland) and The Convict (Gyan Hayre). Any strands which seem to be forgotten are later picked up with nods in the commentary - Below the Belt may be a daft devised piece, but its creators have taken care to acknowledge any apparent flaws and make light of them. The writing often takes a turn for the downright bizarre and sometimes breaks the illusion of the fourth wall. Seemingly, the first rule of writing a play about wrestling club is that there are no rules.

The actors frequently change characters on stage with an impressive amount of energy, with Lycra, wigs and other props flying as they scrabble around to get ready for the next scene. This is no smooth The 39 Steps, but they've clearly had a lot of fun in putting this show together and that sheer joy shines through in its execution. There are plenty of belly laughs to be had - over and over again.

It's probably even less of a realistic portrayal of pro-wrestling than Braveheart is of, well anything that happened ever, but nothing that (Il)logical Theatre do (or don't) you wouldn't forgive immediately. Below The Belt is delightfully funny, energetic and written very knowingly. I'd write in some kind of sports metaphor here, but like the company, I don't know a lot about wrestling. I do however know a thoroughly entertaining show when I see one.

The Spandex B*stards: Below The Belt opened on 10th August and runs until 14th August 2015 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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