The Camden Fringe is by now in full swing and we couldn't be happier to have this festival of theatre and comedy on our doorstep. So far we have enjoyed two cracking performances in one evening and are looking forward to many more similarly exciting back-to-back live shows before the month is up. On the opening day of the festival we excitedly strolled through the [pub] to the Etcetera Theatre doorway at the back, and cheerfully asked Michelle Flower, festival organiser if she was excited about Cracked, what we erroneously assumed was the first show of the programme. "Oh, this is the fifth or six show today," she said airily shepherding one stage crew laden with props up the stairs while dodging another laden with props coming down. "This is Cracked going in now; we're old hands at this already," she said cheerfully. They'll be first-class experts in a week.
Cracked was a lively, invigorating piece of new writing from Brian Marchbank and produced by Northern Gap Theatre Company. We were quickly inducted into the murky relationships between four shouty northern siblings who were onstage, sifting through their deceased father's belongings and trying to solve the riddle of who would have wanted to kill him in the violent way he died. It was a sign of genuine, careful craft by Marchbank and tightly run direction that the twist towards the end was entirely unexpected and a theatrical delight. What was initially playing out like a stage version of Shameless - amusing, snappy shouting matches, dubious drug deals, an untrustworthy father at the centre of everything even when dead - turned out to be a cunning trick on our own guesswork as we watched the siblings work through their theories. The final disposal of two key characters caught us all unaware and had us squirming in horrified delight at finally finding out what really happened, and who it was who did It.
Keep an eye out for more of Marchbank's work coming to the capital as he is
clearly one to watch. Thanks to the Camden Fringe, he's on our radar now and we'll be adding to the list as the festival continues.