Review of Certified – 21 September 2012

Studio at Curve
21 September 2012

Certified began its national debut at Curve’s Studio on Friday night and boasted two national treasures: Les Dennis and Christopher Timothy.  Many of my childhood memories have now been shattered having seen both treasures performing pelvic thrusts as part of a rather awkward looking dance routine.

Four male actors play four male characters, although I would say the pianist (male) and his piano (gender unknown) also play an important role. Music features during every scene, similar to the mood-signifying music played during silent movies.  Based on the book Manhood by Steve Biddulph the play takes a look at some of the issues facing modern man. The actors seemed to enjoy the show as much as the audience; from mime to pantomime, slapstick to stand up they all demonstrated a range of techniques to a packed and appreciative audience – and who also appreciated large doses of ad libbing.

Certified, previously known as Certified Male, has been staged in seven different locations around the globe, including a spell at Edinburgh’s Fringe. It begins its UK run at Curve, co-producers with Glynn Nicholas Productions (Glynn Nicholas also co-wrote the play with Scott Rankin, directed and played the part of Alex).

Jarrad (Christopher Timothy), the ageing boss of a corporate empire celebrates another deal completion by whisking three colleagues on a celebratory holiday to … Peru. Each character represents a ‘typical’ male at a different age: fifty something McBride (Les Dennis) whose next mid life crisis would either be a heart attack or another divorce, forty something Alex who spends all his time at work to avoid his domineering wife and twenty something Howard (O-T Fagbenle), living up to his billing as the good looking new predator. 

A series of sketches, songs and vaudeville-style routines mainly played it for laughs but there were poignant moments, particularly McBride’s confrontation with his dying father but even then, a couple of gags seemed to trivialise the scene.

They made an odd boy band and referenced this themselves at the end of their first song. Mime featured heavily throughout with recurring comic touches. For me, Glynn Nicholas was the most adept, almost Mr Bean-like, particularly in the ‘man overboard’ scene. Stand up techniques such as audience participation and heckling between the characters on stage (for example, Howard referring to Les Dennis’ other life as host of Family Fortunes) gave the piece a nice mix of pace and interest, and got the biggest laughs.

Key objectives for the writers of Certified were to create a show that was as funny as possible and that gave the audience something to think about.  I certainly laughed throughout but then I’m a fan of visual gags and stand up. However, if I thought about the whole message of the play I felt the characters were a little stereotyped, and both men and unseen women were not represented positively.  But I am happy to have come away from Curve having had a really good laugh.

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