REVIEW: Walnut Sanchez and the Macaroni Saga

JOE PIERI falls over backwards for this ridiculous and hilarious duo

cambridge students Corpus five star review Theatre University of Cambridge walnut sanchez and the macaroni saga

Raphael Wakefield and John Tothill return from their acclaimed Edinburgh run and bring their show to the Corpus Playroom setting. The premise: the detective (Macaroni’s) quest to hunt down Walnut Sanchez, the prime suspect in a series of missing persons’ cases.

From its electric beginnings on the heights of Mount Everest to its three pigs’  La Traviata at the denouement, Walnut Sanchez and the Macaroni Saga transports us to the ridiculous and the trivial, with a rapidity and a comic skill that transcends the need for elaborate props and sets. The show’s capacity to conjure atmosphere from almost nothing is one of its finest achievements.

The script is simply delightful and original. Clearly well-oiled from its Edinburgh staging , it brims with comic content, ensuring the laughs come thick, fast and heartily. Somehow, Wakefield and Tothill manage to cover well-trodden adventure/detective film tropes in unorthodox ways. Gags like the recurring boss/secretary (or absence thereof) exchanges, or the inherently flawed cliché of villains delegating their master plans to dim-witted sidekicks, felt unlaboured and fresh.  Even potentially lazy nods to regional stereotypes were saved by the vigour and wit of the writing.

The dynamic duo rarely miss a beat, or a punchline.

Both performers are well-matched both in terms of rapport and talent. That said, their sometimes differing individual strengths do emerge. Tothill’s vocal plumbing and perceptive ear for intonation (shining particularly during his memorable moments as ‘Julian Pringle’) act as the perfect foils for Wakefield’s startling versatility in his physicality, facial expressions and gait. So secure is their dynamic that, even when bellowing over each other, jokes are not missed and focus is upheld.

Admittedly, at first glance, the stage hardly elicits excitement: it is sparsely set up with two microphones and two chairs. One must commend  the technician, Jacob Baldwin, for helping overcome this – the use of shadow to create the illusion of windows in the office exchanges between ‘Macaroni’ and ‘Chief’, alongside well-balanced musical interludes, were particularly effective .

One can only marvel at how deftly these two performers navigate around such a (deliberately) nonsensical, tangent-heavy and outrageously-meta  storyline, whilst swapping characters and changing pace, without a single line or timing slip: a result of total immersion in the material.  The classic ‘I’ve got someone on the other line’ telephone sequence was a wonderful example.

Walnut Sanchez and the Macaroni Saga goes above and beyond your average sketch show. While clearly showcasing their respective talents, it fortunately lacks self-indulgence. Expect razor sharp writing, adept acting and organised chaos, all tightly sealed into just one hour.

5/5 stars