There’s a sort of delicious irony to queuing for a show about rationing whilst watching one of the cast frantically stuffing their face with crisps. Sadly for National Loaf, this was as amused as I ever got.
The costumes are nice, the hair well-styled and the poster-packed set provide some welcome distraction during the fifty minutes of drudgery. For that they get one star.
At first glance, the premise of the show seems promising - roguish slacker Captain Johnson must attempt to shepherd the pompous Colonel Huffkins through an official inspection whilst concealing the grey-market activities of the sassy local womenfolk. It’s a story which one could easily see as an Ealing Studios classic but National Loaf fails to rise to the occasion in almost every way.
This is one of the most lacklustre productions I’ve seen in nearly ten years at the Fringe. Where the lines should be delivered with a whip-sharp rhythm, the predominant sound here is a wheezing air-conditioning system punctuating the awkward pauses between mistimed, unfunny lines. The generic Northern setting seemed to serve no purpose but to impose the need for badly-executed accents on two-thirds of the cast. The script was full of one-note characters and hints at plot twists which never went anywhere.
The only (vain) attempt at characterisation came from Joey Thurston as Huffkins, with a supposedly ersatz Colonel-Melchett; the only energy from Jessica Flood as Maggie Baker whose periodic shouting fits at least stopped me from falling asleep.
I may be wrong; the dull, sluggish performances on display here might be some clever attempt to recreate the torpor of people who’ve been underfed during years of rationing, but I doubt it. The costumes are nice, the hair well-styled and the poster-packed set provide some welcome distraction during the fifty minutes of drudgery. For that they get one star. But, as with rationing, less of National Loaf is definitely more.