I am at the Pleasance Zoo this evening for Stefanie Reynolds’ “Scribbles,” a play that turns out to be asset rich but otherwise poor. “Scribbles” comes with an admirable commitment to the absurd and the anarchic. There are a talented cast who hurtle about like the four winds and with such weightlessness that you might mistake this for an improvised show were it not coordinated with some superb sound effects. Yet, when all is said and done, “Scribbles” packs a disappointingly soft punch. Decisions made by the writer – decisions made and internalised from the outset – have limited the power that is available to the performers.
We are at a corporate branch office and Z (Reynolds) is struggling to hire staff. An early interview scene looks promising for the play. There are well-done visual gags in which one applicant (Marysa Finnie) arrives without any trousers on and another (Daniel Finn) looks suddenly sick when the interviewer falls asleep in front of him. In addition, “Scribbles” is served up with an amusing kind of garnish: three life-size sex dolls that are seated amongst the audience. We have little option but to conclude that each of them belongs to one of the three performers on stage. It is as though the cast have forgotten their original friends and family, to instead drag along these inflatable lovers.
Still, the novelty of “Scribbles” is quickly depleted. It displays a fatal tonelessness, with a lack of the realism or seriousness or even just coldness that is strategically necessary for the anarchy to take shape against. The rest of the performance is an unvarying splatter of mayhem and slapstick. Later scenarios, in which a bag of breakfast cereal is pulverised with a hammer and paper balls are thrown at a dustbin, have no shock or fun to them. It is here possible that “Scribbles” has managed to locate some strange, madcap equivalent of blandness.
The chaos within “Scribbles” also encountered some unfair competition from the audience. There were initially six of us (excluding the sex dolls) but then another six people, or rather two separate groups of three, were mysteriously admitted half way through the play. One of these groups then made an inevitably distracting walkout a couple of minutes before the show ended. There was something about this rigmarole that seemed to dwarf the antics on stage or to expose their missing spontaneity.
“Scribbles” does not need to make “better jokes,” as the voiceover that wraps up the slick applause skit suggests. It might even benefit from fewer.