Jafar Iqbal reports back from watching the Welsh talent on display at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
2016 was the last time Hijinx Theatre made an appearance at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. It was a powerful, satirical look at the struggles faced by disabled people and, helped by a funny little puppet called Fred, the company put itself on the world map. They return two years later with The Flop, a show that has none of the acerbic social commentary but all of the entertainment.
One of the charming things about Meet Fred was its self-awareness, and that’s taken up several notches in The Flop. Relying on a level of self-deprecation that borders on the absurd (even the title pokes fun at itself), Hijinx set out to do nothing but amuse and entertain. It really is as simple as that. The show centres on the story of a seventeenth century French aristocrat accused of having no libido at a time when impotence is illegal. The narrative is deliberately loose, merely a foundation from which the company can build. Innuendo, pun, verse, song, slapstick and clowning are just some of the techniques thrown into the mix, all with an affectionate wink and a nod.
It’s a warmth that emanates from the entire ensemble, all of whom do a superb job. The actors are clearly having fun on stage, and that seeps into their performances. Jess Mabel Jones stands out with a near-perfect homage to Queenie from Blackadder (without the menace), followed closely behind by Adam C Webb. His surreal interludes take the show from Blackadder to The Mighty Boosh, without ever really disrupting the action.
It’s Hannah McPake that really carries the production, though. She is hilarious on-stage, of course, but her biggest contribution is as musical director alongside Dan McGowan. Toby Parks’ compositions are wonderfully funny, enhanced by how McPake and McGowan direct the live performance. Rebecca Jane Wood’s set design is appropriately chaotic too, full of secret windows and moving parts, offering further opportunities for slapstick.
The final act of The Flop ends, like all good farces, with members of the audience joining in and characters running on and off stage. It’s the fitting end to a highly enjoyable hour of theatre, one that leaves everyone with a smile on their face. There’s something rather pleasing about a show like this playing at the Roundabout in Summerhall, a venue lauded for the types of shows that Meet Fred would fit right into. Sometimes, though, it’s good to just see a show that doesn’t change the world, a show that just makes you laugh and smile. The Flop is that show.
The Flop is at the Edinburgh Fringe (Summerhall) until August 26th.