I know it’s a little early to call this one, but The Post Show must surely be a contender for the most original concept of this year’s Fringe. Met in the foyer by an extremely angry usher, we’re told that we’re late – six hours late in fact, which we learn was the running time of the seminal play we’re apparently there to attend. Duly chastised, we hurry into the theatre, just in time to catch the curtain call. But there’s one thing we haven’t missed – the post-show discussion – and before long we find the three-man cast prodding us with questions, soliciting our views on the earnest artistic work which none of us have actually seen.
It’s a witty idea, and a whole lot of fun, an exercise in collective imagination which was embraced with gusto by a preview-night crowd. But while we, the audience, might be making things up as we go along, there’s surprisingly little improvisation evident on the stage. Instead, the three actors use the audience’s suggestions as jumping-off points – triggers for a series of hilarious but transparently pre-prepared scenes. Improv purists may tut at this, but it’s an interesting hybrid technique and the Philadelphia-based Berserker Residents execute it extremely well.
Predictably enough, the fictional “Shallow Scream Ensemble Theatre Collective” proves to be a hotbed of creative tension, and the three actors’ personalities and conflicts develop pleasingly as the hour wears on. There’s a back-story of sorts, surrounding the group’s genesis and artistic frailties, and anyone with any connection to theatre will find that much of the parody rings scarily true. The troupe also pepper their pretentious responses with sharp throwaway gags – a gauche gesture here, a comic mishap there – which are often every bit as rewarding as the carefully-constructed set-pieces.
Towards the end, however, the plot suddenly swerves in a wholly unexpected direction, turning a storyline which previously seemed believable into something quite fantastical instead. And while the last few scenes – which are entirely scripted – do have an offbeat charm of their own, they’re nowhere near as surprising or creative as what’s gone before. They probably did need to mix it up a bit, but I wish The Berserker Residents had found something truer to their core concept; instead, they segue into what almost feels like a separate show.
But it’s good while it lasts – and even those latter scenes are partly redeemed by a satisfyingly silly conclusion. At its best, The Post Show is properly, rollickingly fully, a guilty treat for anyone who’s ever hung out with over-wrought thespians. It could well become a cult hit… and it’s a great way for the serious-minded theatre-goer to blow off some steam at the end of a day at the Fringe.