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Never Try This At Home @ Birmingham Repertory Theatre

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by David Vincent (subscribe)
Occasional blogger and sometimes freelance writer, hammering away in the West Midlands.
Event:
When Saturday morning TV was flan flinging not flan baking
never try this at home, the rep, told by idiots, comedy, tiswas
The cast of fictional late '70s Saturday morning TV series, SHUSHI - Photo courtesy of the REP.


Saturday morning's TV just isn't what it used to be. Today, it's ageing blokes swapping cookery tips with well-groomed celeb's who have TV shows to promote. But back in the late '70s/early '80s, it was a very different story ...

Running between 1974-1982, ATV's TISWAS featured Chris Tarrant, Sally James (the 'dad's favourite'), young comedian Lenny Henry, a dog puppet called Spit (who did), and custard pies. A lot of custard pies. And buckets of water.

Broadcast live, and (for the most part) up against BBC's calmer Noel Edmonds' fronted Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, it was utterly archaic, and more than a little dangerous.

Taking the format of a nostalgia TV show, Never Try This At Home, takes the Brum-produced TISWAS as it's inspiration to look back at a group of dysfunctional presenters, and the fictional landmark series that made their name/ decimated their careers: SHUSHI.

Cue 90mins of TISWAS-esque flan flinging, accompanied by egotistical outbursts, sexism, carefully managed racism, desperation, poor catch phrases, farce, scrapping, bad language, and all topped off with a suicide attempt.

Ouch!

With shades of Noises Off, Alan Partridge and, yes, TISWAS, Never Try This At Home is a nostalgic homage to an age before the tightly scripted, crystal clean and well stage managed fare we now see on CBBC and CITV. This is an age before Jessie and Hannah Montana were even born!

Darkly comic and slapstick in equal measures, there's plenty of laughs to be had as the cast throw themselves into the action.

For those who grew up on TISWAS and the various other shows that adapted their format for the '80s, '90s and into the '00s (Saturday Superstore, Live And Kicking, SMTV etc), here's a chance to recall a golden age of kid's telly, when anything could happen.

Those that missed that era may be left a little perplexed by the sheer ridiculousness of the whole shebang - was it really like that? - but some fine physical theatre and deft one-liners keep the laughs coming.

One word of warning though - if you do opt to sit in the front rows, make sure you take full advantage of those free plastic macs .. you'll need 'em.

"Say Hello Up! Say Hello!"

Tour dates:
Until 15 March 2014, Birmingham Repertory Theatre Studio, Birmingham
18-22 March 2014, The Crucible, Sheffield
26-29 March 2014, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
2-27 April 2014, Soho Theatre, London
Details: www.toldbyanidiot.org
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Why? A hysterical homage to a golden age of kid's TV
When: 7.45pm (matinees 2.45pm)
Where: Birmingham REP
Cost: 9-15
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