Saturday, 13 May 2017

Review Out There On The Fried Ridge Road

Tim Gopsill passes the time watching a hit-and-miss redneck comedy set in rural America.

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road
by Keith Stevenson  

Welcome To The Motel West Virginia

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road - wacky name for a wacky comedy that feels like a sitcom set in rural southern America. For a British equivalent, think The Young Ones rather than The Good Life, with the same compulsive lowlife-ism.

Fortunately it is short, just over an hour and stops before the buffoonery starts to pall. If anything does, it is the relentless good humour and benevolence in the way the characters interrelate.

Writer Keith Stevenson couldn’t go wrong when he decided to assemble an oddball set of characters around big bearded, tartan-shirted country hick JD. He's rumoured to be the offspring of immaculate conception via an Italian prostitute. In reality he's actually conceived, written and played by Stevenson, a true West Virginian.

So take a quiet, liberal unemployed out-of-towner (Michael Maloney) looking for a room share. Add the over-the-top violent sexist poet (Alex Ferns), his screaming crack addict painter girlfriend (Melanie Gray), a brutal racist landlord (Michael Wade) and the big gentle benign drop-out who just happens to believe he is the Son of God.

Then plonk them in a squalid motel room on a remote and weirdly-named road which really does run straight through Stevenson's home town.

This sketchy but affable one-act hillbilly farce started off in Los Angeles where it was something of a success with the metropolitan audience spawning two sequels, eventually given the collective name of The Fried Meat Trilogy. Its broad brand of humour has now crossed the pond, first to Kennington's White Bear Theatre and now at Whitehall's Trafalgar Studios.

Director Harry Burton has everybody leaping about and thunderously slamming doors to a degree that almost appears to endanger Simon Scullion's wood panelled set on the tiny stage of the venue's smaller studio space. 

Ferns as the manic trouble-seeking gangster/poet Tommy exudes the most menace and Melanie Gray as his girlfriend Marlene gets the most laughs. She whines at Tommy’s infidelities that they are all with women called Marlene “because he’s too dumb to remember any other names”.

The current one, she yells, weighs 500 pounds and “can’t get out of the door of her trailer.” Indeed Tommy has to demolish it for the purpose; he puts the other Marlene in the back of JD’s car which he’s “borrowed” and then runs out of control down a hill and flattens someone’s gazebo. Yes it’s that kind of humour.

Maloney as Mitch is the nervy, nicely understated straight man to the caricatures around him. There is plenty of embarrassingly funny stuff which does elicit chuckles and guffaws. Nevertheless if you are easily offended at sexist and racist gags uttered by some sexist and racist characters, you might want to give this show a miss.

Out There On The Fried Edge Road does have a very good joke at the end. However, much as I laughed, my traffic light theatre rating is firmly stuck at an amber light.

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