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115

The teenaged singers Daphne and Celeste are most likely to be remembered today for their legendary appearance at the Reading Festival in 2000. Daphne and Celeste sang squeaky bubble-gum pop, Reading was a no-nonsense rock festival, and these conditions combined to generate the perfect storm. The girls were effectively projectile vomited out of the festival’s system; the crowd chanted abuse and pelted them with bottles until they ran away.

In Nikhil Vyas’ “The Lizards,” we join the titular boy band five hours before they are due to go on stage at the same festival. This is a new play from Durham and it is currently showing at the Spaces on the Mile. Will (Sandy Thin) is contemplating quitting the band, Chaz (Adam Simpson) can only think about the next pill, whilst Mark (Adam Evans) is lovelorn and suicidal. If this lot are dejected, frumpy Blairites, then their manager Pam (Corinna Harrison) is the Malcolm Tucker behind the blandness. She periodically invades their trailer with such motivational tidings as, “you’re irrelevant… you’re extinct.”

The humour might sound predictable, but “The Lizards” mostly has the smile wiped off its face. Any comedy is indulged sparingly, although, as when the M finally locates the few wrinkles in Chaz’s brain and sinks into them, it is always funny. Even though the boy band are constantly questioning the value of their music, the play at least believes in the product. It is throughout implied that if only the guys would harmonise, melodically and psychologically, then they would be saved.

Any glee about the silliness of their situation – these “boys” in their thirties who are envious and embittered when they must have the easiest jobs in the world – is reduced to the proportions of a church mouse that is rattling inaudibly behind the skirting boards. There is something strangely Catholic about this play – its morality is fully cognisant of the existence of hell. The singers simply have to preserve their belief, in themselves and each other, however discouraging the evidence and however empty the churches. Their story is a test of faith and the boy band are like Christians who are vacillating before they are sent to the lions. Some will be saved, others will be lost.

There is impressive discipline here in both the writing and the acting, a disdain for caricatures and easy laughs. But the characters also exact a certain inevitable revenge upon their performers. I think that Chaz and his friends would be highly amused by the sizes of Fringe theatre audiences. They would be snobbish about the squalor and lack of appreciation which Fringe companies have to typically endure. So it is by no means clear who laughs last or loudest, but this is still highly entertaining student theatre.

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