Fresh from its performances at the Brighton Fringe Festival and prior to its appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe this August, Love Hard present their newest play The House On The Hill at the Old Joint Stock, Birmingham for a one-off preview performance. For just an hour, the audience is transported on the journey of an American family who move to rural Scotland to live on the ominous ‘House on the Hill’. What ensues is simply genius and ends with a rather unexpected twist… followed by yet another macabre gag.
Firstly, the two actors (Tyler Ross and Jacob Lovick) must be applauded on their ability to not only present over 30 characters between them but also for their quick-witted improvisation skills. These moments became rather key to the plot and although corpsing was inevitably expected, it did somewhat add to the intimacy of the performance and made it specific to that audience – one particular moment involved a gag where Jacob spontaneously pulled out a mango which caught his co-actor by surprise and caused a few moments of respite away from the plot before moving back to the fast-paced tale.
Juxtaposition was also key to the comedy of the play with moments of utter hilarity contrasted with some particularly fear inducing ‘walkie-talkie’ moments. There was a moment where all the lights went down as the priest performed a religious act on the house and it was so cleverly put together with just the two actors that it felt as if there were lots more people in the room and really was frightening.
The technical elements of the play were simple and consisted of lots of sound effects, which played in turn with the comedy to support the 2 actors who held the show. Few lighting cues were used but were fairly effective in shifting the scenes from day to night and to, at times, add intensity to the play. The tech was completed by a line of hanging carnival bulbs above the stage to set the scene of the Scottish pier and I suppose one thing that would have been nice to see in addition, would have been an integrated set and quick costume changes. This is something that similar small cast, improvised productions, such as the 39 Steps, does particularly well and increases the comedy of the piece hugely. However for such a small space, the actors substituted the lack of set well with their clear characterization and use of accents to move us through the story.
Thank you LoveHard for such an enjoyable evening of comedy and sadistical frights. If you didn’t catch it in Birmingham, then be sure to see LoveHard: The House on the Hill at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 4-20 August.
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