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Crocodile preview – ‘This is going to be properly funny’

Nitrous Cow look set to provide a rip-roaring comedy follow-up to their sold out debut 'Lovesong' last term

This is going to be properly funny. Adapted from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 19865 short story, Tom Basden’s stage adaptation follows a jobbing actor, Ivan, who only starts to achieve the fame he feels he is due after being swallowed whole by the titular beast in a St. Petersburg zoo. Every bit as absurd as it sounds, this comedy sets out to satirise the cult of fame, over-pompous prevention and apathetic self-absorption while delivering an important message about the corruptibility of friendship in adverse circumstances.

Put on by actors, about actors, for an audience that, lets face it, will probably have its fair share of actors, this play has bursts with witty, self-referential gags at the fustian, thespian archetype we know all-too-well. Refreshingly witty, its easy to see that the script comes from one of the writers for Peep Show and Fresh Meat.

The team’s passion for comedy is contagious. Director Alex Rugman makes it clear that he went for this play specifically because of its hilarious potential and the scope it gives, what he believes is the best comic cast in Oxford, the chance to make it funnier still. From what I saw he’s right on all counts. Given how heavily comedy riles on the energy of a packed auditorium, it says something that the performance had its audience of one (namely me) laughing hard.

Too often the best Oxford drama has to offer is dominated by serious tragedy. When comedy is performed its generally taken less seriously and suffers as a result. From Wednesday to Saturday of 7th week, Director, cast and crew are out to show that, when they take ‘silly’ seriously, students can perform comedy as well as well as tragedy, if not better. Their aim, and my expectation, is to give Oxford a dose of laughter they won’t forget soon.

Despite his motivation to leave the audience in stitches, Alex recognises this play is, as he puts it, a comedy with a heart. In particular its message about the testing of friendship under unusual circumstances and the power of fame in our modern era ring throughout this production.

The cast looks set to deliver this satire to a very high standard. With Dominic Wetherby and Luke Winter playing best friends Ivan and Zack respectively and Julia Pilkington, Jon Berry and El Blackwood multi-roleing throughout, the on stage chemistry should be a great to witness.

If you’ve been much student theatre this term you’re likely familiar with the comedic talent of Jon Berry, who’s back in yet another role set to showcase his masterful delivery in a number of parts. His performance as the pencil-pushing administrator responsible for retrieving Ivan, every bit as unhelpful and infuriating as you’d expect, oozes the physical comedy and timing that have made him a  favourite in Oxford’s comedy scene so far.

Likewise, Julia Pilkington combines tenacity and the absurd as the tinsel brandishing guardian of the crocodile in what is sure to be a stellar performance.

Dominic Weatherby looks set to steal the show in his Oxford debut, bringing fire and to his part of the over-zealous, under-talented actor. In a neat case of life mimicking art, I think Dominic will draw plenty of the audiences attention from his time in The Crocodile, much as his character, Ivan, does during the play.

Given the passion of the cast and crew, the biting satire of the script and the promise of the acting, Nitrous Cow Production’s The Crocodile, should be a seriously good evening out.

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