Wresting MaNia ~ Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham

Wrestling MaNia is coming to Edinburgh Fringe from 5th – 18th August 2017 at Silk and you can book tickets here: Wrestling MaNia

Star rating: ****

Ben Pountney and Alex Brockie

It’s Wrestling MaNia’s big night and they’ve sold loads… well a few… a couple of tickets so their audience awaits! However, there’s one snag, the big names who had top billing are stuck waiting for a broken down minibus to be fixed and John (Alex Brockie) is left with little choice but to utilise a box of costumes and the handful of people he has with him. They’re the ones who were deemed not important enough to travel to the venue by minibus. Aided and hindered by the hapless Phil (Dean Hubbard), who is on a mission to seek out suitable music and equipment to play it on but would rather get his hands on a sandwich – it’s a race against time to get the show on the road.

Showing a hilarious and madcap insight into backstage chaos at a wrestling show, Wrestling MaNia is a well crafted comedy script with a strong cast playing the range of vastly different characters. As well as the man in charge, John, who’s manipulative, self-indulgent and bordering on desperation and Phil, all he wants is a sandwich, there’s Kyle (Adam Ravenscroft) who is the only member of the ensemble willing to work for free and delighted to be doing so. Kyle, we gather, is not the sharpest tool in the box and he’s victimised by The Mark (Ben Pountney), nobody loves The Mark more than The Mark does and he stalks around backstage (in his pink outfit) putting his crotch in everyone’s face! It’s no surprise that he is not a favourite of the token female character, Becky (Kaitlin Cole) who huffs, folds her arms and raises her eyebrows at every given opportunity – although she soon has her moment of glory when she meets The Mark in the ring.

The cast work well as an ensemble, individually they have each embraced the ‘character’ in their character and it shines through. The Mark couldn’t help but stand out, the role is supposed to do just that, Ben Pountney could not have put more into that performance, he really is one to watch. Equally, Adam Ravenscroft was a revelation as Kyle, giving a physically visual performance as well and using body language to convey his character’s traits. Alex Brockie was kinetic to watch as John, I felt every emotion that he was going through, in contrast, Dean Hubbard was superbly laid-back. Kaitlin Cole was also excellent, playing Becky as one of the boys while simultaneously commanding their respect.

It may have been slightly slow to get started but the momentum of the piece picked up brilliantly until audience members were almost literally rolling in the aisles and clapping enthusiastically midway through the performance. Catch it in Edinburgh, it’s definitely worth a punt.

Spotlight on… Producer, Alex Brockie

Birmingham Fest is bursting onto the West Midlands Theatre scene, I chatted to Alex Brockie about his contribution to the highlight of the Brummie theatre-land calendar.

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, can you tell me about your latest production and what the audience can expect from it?

Well, there are actually two productions that form this Diva Double-Bill; An Audience with Gorgeous George and Too Tall to Tribute? – a one-man show followed by a one-woman show that will respectively be kicking off this year’s Birmingham Fest. Both performances run just under an hour each with an intermission in between (NOTE: there is a bar at the venue!).

Gorgeous George is a drama about the real life of the legendary American wrestling ‘villain’ from the 1950’s who was the first star of all television to adopt a camp and effeminate persona. I took this show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year and am now looking at converting it into a radio play.

Too Tall to Tribute? is a brand new piece that works more like a stand-up comedy show. It tells the story of the trials and tribulations of an unfortunately tall actress with a Marilyn Monroe obsession. It’s been co-written with the performer, Laura Nicholson, and contains some strong language and ‘NON-PC’ material.

Has anything changed from the initial draft of the script to the final show? Did you notice any particular transitions once you were in rehearsals?

With Gorgeous George there is more audience interaction now than there was in the Edinburgh run. I feel that this connection with the audience makes the piece more playful and intimate at times – which is always fun.

With Too Tall to Tribute? a lot of the humour in the piece has been developed through rehearsal as opposed to being scripted in isolation. It’s been a particularly enjoyable process and I hope that this ‘enjoyment’ transfers to the audience through the live performance.

Have you used the Blue/Orange Theatre before and what do you think of the space?

Yes, I’ve performed at the Blue Orange Theatre in various productions over the past few years. I enjoy the space and find Mark and his staff there to be very friendly and supportive.

What’s next for you after this production?

After this I will be working on taking a trilogy of my plays; The Wrestling Plays to Edinburgh Fringe in 2017. For more information on this project please check out my website: www.thewrestlingplays.com

Finally, what would you say to encourage audience members to come alone? Sell the show to me!

This is a non-ticketed ‘pay what you can’ event so it’s a night of proper fringe theatre in Birmingham that is entirely accessible and free from any agenda other than to entertain. The shows are thematically linked in that they both tap into ‘camp culture’ but they are also extremely different in terms of tone, subject and genre – so variety is aplenty. In Gorgeous George you are getting a dramatic telling of the forgotten star who was the first to truly thrust camp into the forefront of pop-culture. In Too Tall to Tribute? you’ll be treated to a straight-up comedy with fresh and original material and also a little bit of singing and dancing thrown in for good measure! – * drops mic and exits *




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