It’s Glasgow 1948, and ex-MI6 agent Albert Ogilvy has an extraordinary tale to tell. The most wanted man on (and off) the Earth, he has been chased by every spy agency and each superpower, all wanting to know the exact location of the Nazi gold he stole from the collapsing Vichy regime in 1945.
Vichy Goings-On is a satirical, comedic play written by Ben Blow and presented by Edinburgh-based RFT. Described as a post-truth alternative history, the play dives into the insane world of conspiracy theories, ranging from what happened to all the world leaders who ‘died’, to flying saucers and the Fourth Reich – and culminating with truly bonkers thoughts about the New World Order.
The conspiracy theories provide a goldmine of comedic opportunities, which are well served in a script that travels all around, and out, of this world. These are combined well with representations of the world superpowers – which were, at this time, beginning to realise that a new and potentially more devastating conflict between the US and the USSR was just beginning. There is also a running gag involving polar bears that is reminiscent of the television series Lost, a work that also had a habit of disappearing down the rabbit holes of insanity.
The production makes heavy use of effective projections on to the back wall of the stage space. This presenting of locations and dates serves a twofold purpose: it keeps the audience aware of where the action is taking place, and it allows for the sets to be changed without breaking up the flow of the show. The various photos used are also fun, especially the ones at the end that serve as a quick, silent epilogue to the main storyline.
Unfortunately, the acting is extremely uneven. Sean Langtree’s Ogilvy blandly drifts from one scene to the next; this complements the more outrageous performances of multiple characters by Jonathan Whiteside and Ben Blow (especially the latter’s great performance as a taxi driver, who is the ex-Nazi Albert Speer), but it is hard to believe that anyone would remain that unflappable in light of the fantastic events he is experiencing. He also suffers from a lack of chemistry with Andrea McKenzie’s Veronique, who sports a truly abominable French accent.
The play is perfectly ridiculous, and it wears its absurdity on its sleeve – which is no bad thing. Sadly however, some of the performances let it down.