One woman, one reviewer: ADAM KIRTON sings the praises of former Footlight Abi Tedder.
ADC Theatre, 16th-19th May, 11pm, £5-6
Directed by Ben Ashenden
You’ve got to take your hat off to Abi Tedder, the one and only star of Anything But. To perform alone for an hour and keep the audience’s attention throughout is admirable in of itself. If not incredible. With a flick of her face she’d change the mood. A turn, a point, an imaginary puppet or pie, the swings combined with the snappy pace like a bipolar pinball to create the hilariously heartbreaking tale of Agnes in her kitchen.
What impressed me most with this play – written by Mark Fiddaman and Lucien Young – was that underneath the surface, it’s a deeply moving tale. It’s not hard to see why it was awarded the Harry Porter Prize last year. Quips and puns ruled freely, turning the mundane, downright depressing scene of Agnes’ Dad’s wake into a gripping saga of sorrow, sex, and savouries. It makes you look at yourself, and triggers memories, smiles, laughs, and perhaps even a few tears. Tedder is totally convincing, and she certainly draws you in by taking full advantage of the fourth wall. She’s telling you this crazy tale, not just performing it. And that’s what makes it so great; it’s laughable, but believable.
I especially loved the way Tedder draws you in closer and closer with a mournful anecdote, the kind which tend to crop up at wakes – songs, let downs, highs, etc. Like a fish on a hook she’s reels you in, really gets those emotive juices going – then, BAM! The punch-line hits you and you’re laughing again. Though this worked tremendously, it did feel some of the time like it was a bit of a cheap shot. Sometimes, (and only some) it seemed that the writers, conscious of the atmosphere getting too emotional or the need for a change of subject, got themselves off easily with a quick cheesy or sordid comment thrown in like a lamb to the wolves. It does seem a slight shame that occasionally these brilliant scenes Tedder builds are undermined. Another niggling issue is that a few of the jokes seemed like easy blows – in a way this is a backhanded compliment to the writers. Any moments that were just good seemed way below their standard.
Another element which won much love from me were the projections on the backdrop. Simple, childlike and effective, they helped Agnes’ memories hit home vivedly and conjured many a chuckle from the audience.
If you were foolish enough to miss this the first time round and can spare an hour away from revision (and let’s be honest, who really can’t?), then definitely go and see this.