Thursday, 27 August 2015

Highlights from The Fringe - Day 3: The Hogwallops

Meet The Hogwallops (Photo: Tristan Conor)

"Mum, can I have some Roald Dahl?" asked my daughter last night, at bedtime. Yes, I replied, as long as it's not The Twits. We opt instead for George's Marvellous Medicine. I love everything that Roald Dahl writes, I gobble up his words and feast on his moussaka lasagne*, but I spit out The Twits. My niece recently did the superb set design at the Royal Court for The Twits. Now that I would have taken the kids to see, but tickets sold out in a flash and I'm gutted to have missed the boat. "Don't worry Mum" reassured my son, "you never really liked The Twits anyway, did you?" You see? They all know. And yet here comes this show about a crazy loco family called The Hogwallops, that appears to take its cue from the Twits in the delight they take in playing slapstick pranks on each other, and it's one of my absolute highlights of The Fringe.

How to describe The Hogwallops? Mama mia!  They are loud, argumentative and they wreak merry havoc. They have that familiar Mediterranean vibe going on, with the grandfather at the head of a sprawling clan all living on top of each other in anarchic chaos. A crackling retro radio announces random facts about population over strains of blues, an accordian weaves in tango - I loved the musical score. They could well be the neighbours from hell, but they'd be riotous good fun with it. And however badly they may treat each other, underneath all that the gruffness and bickering is amore. 

Annabel Carberry
It's grandfather Pepino's birthday and he's not at all happy about getting any older.  Deaf to his daughter's pleas, the zimmerframe is constantly ignored, or dispatched with a vigorous kick, though used with relief as a support when he thinks his no-one is watching. A cake is being made in his honour. And a fabulous balancing act on the kitchen table ensues. As the daughter stands elevated on her father's shoulders sifting flour, the sequence stirs up memories of  food, love and laughter in NoFit State's Noodles (see Chapter 62) Mama's Kitchen (see Chapter 92), and The Party (Chapter 45). Circus is cooking.

As with any family worth its weight in salt, the kitchen is the hub of all social interaction and innovation: a washing line doubling as an aerial cloud swing narrowly, and expertly, skims the kitchen table; a zimmerframe, that suspended, serves as a novel trapeze; bodies become skipping ropes; eggs become juggling balls, or is that vice versa? The stunts they pull are staggering and I had vertigo watching the heady heights to which they soar, yet they are dished up with such ease, generating a great rapport with the audience that warms the cockles of your heart.  And there's a touch of romance too, a husband wooing his wife away from the chores strikes a chord, and I laughed at the hapless romantic grandson, with an air of the Paolo Nutini about him, attempting to work his way through a 50s-style voiceover of steps on "how to catch the woman of your dreams". You should meet Lindsay Benner** love, I think. 

The clutter, domesticity and clowning - it's home from home, really. Barely a week before going to Edinburgh, in the grip of a lively "discussion" one evening, I grabbed three eggs from the fridge and began to vent my frustration through juggling. Well, it beat lobbing them across the room, I suppose, and the comedy that followed was a great diffuser. The following day I came across the rubber versions in a toy shop and set up a replay.  I wasn't fooling anyone - what a twit! - "eggs don't have seams round the middle, Mum!", but it did make them laugh and we had a cracking good time. And so it felt appropriate that while Cinders here was having a blast up in Edinburgh, the last show I saw at The Fringe reminded me of my little pumpkins calling me home. Thank you Hogwallops. I look forward to seeing you again one day, and next time I'll bring the family too. 

Annabel Carberry, Massimiliano Rossetti, Moira Morrison, Thibaut Lezervant, Roisin Morris, Eduardo Riciardelli

The Hogwallops have three performances left at the Circus Hub in The Meadows - 11.25am.
Next stop Circomedia in Bristol in October.

* See Roald Dahl's Cookbook by Felicity (Liccy) and Roald Dahl
** Another highlight of The Fringe - see Lindsay Benner's Book of Love (click here)

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