Guest review by Oliver Wake
The Amount of Us from the A Bunch of Chemicals Theatre Company was seen for three days only at the London Improv Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe Festival. The production calls itself “an adapted theatrical collage about the beginning and end of love”, though it’s not clear from what or by whom it is adapted. It’s certainly a theatrical collage, however, with its surprisingly large cast of 11 performing a series of unrelated short sketches and scenes on the theme of relationships.
The show got off to a wobbly start with a rather banal monologue, but slowly gained momentum as the performance continued. I felt the stronger material was in the second half, but perhaps that was more an indication of the company’s growing confidence and audience rapport as the show progressed. Some of the less successful sketches were those serious ones which attempted to pull at our heart strings or genuinely explore emotional connections. Inevitably, an actor can’t build a fully rounded and sympathetic character in two or three minutes, and nor is this long enough for the level of audience empathy required to make such scenes truly effective. More successful were the comedy sketches and scenes with humorous undertones. A man asking his wife to divorce him with all the trepidation and celebration of a marriage proposal was particularly amusing.
I would take issue with the show’s tagline, which calls it “a modern love story”. Although love features, the sketches are concerned at least as much about sex as any more traditional notion of romantic relationships. In this, the show perhaps only reflects the modern world of relationships, at least as it is for younger generations (and I note the cast – and presumably, therefore, the characters – were nearly all twenty-somethings). This minor sex-obsession led to some of the show’s more salacious and amusing dialogue exchanges.
The performances were variable, with some actors perhaps struggling with their parts being too small to give enough to get their teeth into. This mirrored my main frustration with the piece: as soon as a good scene got going, it was over, its characters never to be seen again. Several of the sketches could happily have been extended, perhaps into short plays of their own, whereas some of the lesser ones would not have been missed if dropped.
The format of the play writes my final verdict for me: The Amount of Us is very much a mixed bag.