Review: Watch This presents a 48 Hour 'Back to the Future' | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: Watch This presents a 48 Hour ‘Back to the Future’

Holly Reaney throws herself into the madness, mayhem and hilarity of Watch This Society's well-renowned 48 Hour show, based on the much loved film 'Back to the Future'

Legendary on campus, last week, we were again treated to the hilarity which always ensues with Watch This’s 48 Hour Productions.

I don’t think there's any other type of show where the actors are having just as much fun as the audience

The premise is simple. The actors have ten days to learn their lines and 48 hours for rehearsal. The resulting product is a mix of improv, accidents and a lot of laughter; both on stage and off. I don’t think there's any other type of show where the actors are having just as much fun as the audience. The latest instalment of this film-parody series and joining the likes of Shrek, The Avengers and Jaws, was Back to The Future.

it became clear that this production was a real labour of love

From reading the programme, it became clear that this production was a real labour of love. From Joe Goodsall’s first year dream to the plays realisation three years later: the story of the performance’s conception, creation and production could be a play itself. The passion behind the project, particularly from the writer/directors Mark Fenton and Joe Goodsall, was excellently embodied on stage. What’s more stage manager, Chaz Webb seemed to have the ability to create almost anything from cardboard ranging from the DeLorean to Old Joe. Definitely deserving her title of Cardboard Queen.

The role of narrator is vital component of the 48 Hour production; providing line support and offering a witty commentary on the unfurling events. Therefore, the obvious choice of character to take this role would be the star of Terminator and govern our of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, who else would you choose? Satya Baskaran adopts a decent yet comic Austrian accent (which he manages to maintain throughout the play) and is a great source of comedy whilst despairing with the other characters and verbally sparring with Harris’ Doctor Who.

Taking the lead roles were Ella Wright as Marty McFly and Marcus Paragpuri as Doctor Emmett Brown. Both were hilarious and excellently embodied the roles with limited line mistakes, a particularly commendable feat given how many lines they had to learn. Paragpuri was the perfect casting choice as Doc, both mad and hilarious in equal quantity – whilst his determination in unravelling the string was a particularly entertaining instance of his ingenious improv. The pair worked together to create a fast paced performance, which while last three hours (including interval) definitely didn’t feel like that long.

The random appearance of characters from a range of different canons is characteristically ‘48 hour’ and only adds to the hilarity

Other characters to drop by were: Charlie Harris as both Doctor Who and Severus Snape; Rosie Solomon as the rapping and smoking Old Joe with characteristic ‘Bongs’; James Quarterman as Sigmund Freud with his very own musical number entitled The Incest Song. Everyone you'd expect, right? The random appearance of characters from a range of different canons is characteristically ‘48 hour’ and only adds to the hilarity. It doesn’t always make complete sense, and that’s the beauty of it.

The only weakness in the performance came from the sound and was only an issue when the songs were performed. Unfortunately, it was almost impossible to hear the songs due to an imbalance between the microphone and backing tracks. This was a particular shame with regards to Freud’s Incest Song sang to Lehrer’s The Elements, which I think would have been an impressive lyrical feat, had we been able to discern anything other than the word ‘Incest’. Thankfully, this technical difficulty only affected the songs and did not detract from the play.

The American accents were for the most part believable though occasionally lost, once referenced by Paragpuri who highlighted that he’d ‘gone German’. However, this just added to the pantomime style of the production and something the audience got behind, often yelling out ‘kiss’ whenever two characters got particularly close.

the humour comes not only from the witty script and excellent acting but from the mistakes, the occasional ad lib and improv and the unreliability of cardboard

Yes, this production wasn’t a flawless and polished night of highbrow comedy. It was rough, raw and relied on word-play and gags. But that’s the charm of the 48 hour productions – the humour comes not only from the witty script and excellent acting but from the mistakes, the occasional ad lib and improv and the unreliability of cardboard. To succeed in something this stripped back, whilst still being extremely captivating and comic,  is a real feat and another excellent example of the diversity which is offered by the University's drama societies. Kudos to all involved.



Published

14th March 2017 at 9:00 am



Images from

Watch This Theatre Company



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