Lockdown reviews: (It’s Not All) Zoom and Gloom

Catching up with some shows which ran live on Zoom, I decided to view this new play written and directed by Tony Hulse. Upon booking a ticket, you get access to an unlisted YouTube link where you can experience the show when you wish.

(It’s Not All) Zoom and Gloom is a show suitable for age five and above, a “daft comedy”, and an increasingly silly version of the perennial tale of redemption, A Christmas Carol (by, according to character Alice, one Miles Chickens).

Ben (Robin Hemmings) is grumpy. His friends and niece want to cheer him up. It isn’t that he has no heart or hoards money, so he isn’t quite a Scrooge in the traditional sense, rather just a crabby millennial who needs a shake-up.

As Jake (Alex Stedman, who has a nice line in physical comedy), Alice (Shaelee Rooke) and Sam (Gergo Danka) take turns to try and make Ben smile, it takes a gatecrasher to bring the chaos back to peace.

In watching many productions devised and performed on Zoom over the past few months, I have enjoyed the ways the tech issues and features have been used to enhance shows. Here we have audio only, unmuting, freezing, creative backgrounds, and screen sharing.

Ben seems a bit dim if he falls for these shenanigans so easily, but the idea is fine. For me, it just didn’t quite come off. Do we want to revisit our pasts? Would it make us better people?

In any case he’s far less grumpy than Scrooge ever was: that old miser was nastier to others, bruised by circumstance, and in need of redemption. Ben, in contrast, even looks amused now and then, and his only problem appears to be a lack of clean trousers to wear!

For a family audience, the dressing up and quick-fire scenes worked well, but (It’s Not All) Zoom and Gloom doesn’t always hit the mark. It does have moments that are quite inventive, though, and with a trim here and there, it might be a bit more effective.

Roustabout Theatre have produced a show which is funny once it gets going (15 minutes of scene-setting in a running time of less than an hour feels too much), but loses a bit of steam by the end.

You can book for (It’s Not All) Zoom and Gloom at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/its-not-all-zoom-and-gloom-a-new-play-by-toby-hulse-tickets-106645776388. Although tickets are free, donations are encouraged.

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