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On the Box
The Pleasance, Islington
7th April 2014


Ed Bruggemeyer, Ezme Gaze, Bertie Anderson and Mitch McGugan

Photography provided by Bowjangles

When they have an idea, Bowjangles really run with it. And dance, sing, act and play with it. Basically, when it comes to entertaining people, they're a group with - pardon the pun - many strings to their bow. Since first coming up with the concept of Bowtopia in their 2012 Camden Fringe show The Bowlympics, they've premiered On the Box at the 2013 Camden Fringe, an hour-long piece which builds on previous ideas, and have taken this up and down the length of the country touring. When we first saw On the Box, it was frankly near-perfect, and after a year of fine-tuning - actually, why apologise for punning, this group certainly don't - it's become very difficult to criticise anything about it.

Ezme Gaze, Bertie Anderson, Ed Bruggemeyer and Mitch McGugan are all accomplished musicians, with Bruggemeyer and McGugan on violin, Anderson on viola and Gaze specialising in the cello. There's no straight recital, rather the quartet have devised a show around their own television channel, bringing us the breakfast news, soap operas, sport - even adverts - a clever format which allows them to play several medleys of songs old and new and have a lot of - rather infectious - fun with it.

At times the group sings, strums and dances, talking multi-tasking to another level. Particularly impressive is Strictly Come Bowjangling (do you see what they did there?) with Gaze and McGugan teaming up for the Charleston and Anderson and Bruggermeyer instead tangoing across the stage to Doris Day's Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps. There sheer energy is incredible to watch - there have been times when I've suspected all four performers are either inhaling sugar or secretly robots from the future designed to shame all other acts into upping their game. But there's very much a lightness of touch and spark to the show proving that whilst they are extraordinary, they're still very much human.

It's been a while since Bowjangles first started putting together On the Box, and the inevitable result is that some of the references have dated since then. With that said, although the Rihanna joke felt a bit old last time, it does now seem to have come full circle, with Umbrella now "retro" rather than passé.

Some will call them twee, and they're very much a glass-half-full act, who have proved they can perform in difficult conditions (honestly, there's something nice about watching them without a giant drill in the background). However, each individual has a clearly defined stage persona, with Gaze and McGugan frequently used to dial down the happy factor, or add a bit of adult appeal. The result is wonderfully universal, it's family-friendly but also deeply entertaining for grown ups, with anything risqué written to go straight over the heads of anyone too young for it.

On The Box is a playful and charming piece, guaranteed to cheer anyone up and make them look "on the bright side of death". It's only April, and that's quite early in terms of predicting Edinburgh Fringe smash hits, many performers haven't quite got to the London previews stage yet. But if we had to put ourselves out there - and here we go - if Bowjangles can keep their running time to schedule, we think they'll be a runaway success in Edinburgh.

On The Box ran on 7th April 2014 at The Pleasance.

Nearest tube station: Caledonian Road (Piccadilly)

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