**** The Stage Review

Dr Livingstone, I Presume

Published Friday 12 December 2014 at 12:01 by Francesca Morrison

Alliteration runs riot in Miracle Theatre’s ludicrously funny show-within-a-show about Victorian explorers. Lurching in style between music hall and back-room pub entertainment, the catastrophically inept Ffitch Repertory Players – a theatrical ensemble beset by tensions and tribulations – thrash through a narrative that is occasionally turgid and often brilliant.

Their techniques range from puppets, dance and songs to magic lanterns, groan jokes, ventriloquism and even conjuring.
The net result of this weird assortment is the kind of comedy that almost wrong-foots you into laughing out loud.
None of this would be possible, of course, without a cast that surges through such inspired windbaggery with comic relish and skill.
Giles King pulls off one of the high spots as a giant caterpillar morphing into an even more grotesque butterfly, and brings a deft touch of panto dame to one of his other roles as the monstrous Mrs Ffitch.

Ben Dyson is Julius Ffitch, deliciously sozzled overseer of thespian mismanagement, and Holly Cassidy is the show’s musical mainstay as well as a vivacious Miss Cavell, who can “chirrup like a chaffinch, gallivant like a gazelle and ogle like an ocelot”.
Ciaran Clarke completes the quartet, bringing flair and a fine sense of the ridiculous to his melange of music, melodrama and madness.
Jude Munden’s puppets, especially the little figures conversing as they canoe up the Zambezi, add instant humour and imaginative dimension, and the music throughout is aptly satirical and rousing.

Verdict: A madcap show-within-a-show performed with comic relish and skill