Sideshow

The Curzon, Clevedon, an old-fashioned theatre in a second-rate seaside town, the auditorium closer to empty than full, perhaps explaining the half-hearted performance of “psychic medium and mind reader” Stuart Pendrick. His act some years out of vogue, the best years of his career are as far behind him as the youth of his audience whom he describes to his agent as “the cast reunion from Cocoon.”

The Curzon another venue to which “The All-Seeing Stupendo” will not be invited for a repeat engagement following a particularly inappropriate message for a hopeful widow from her late husband, at least one person in the audience got their money’s worth, Eva wanting a measure of the man before she and her accomplice break into his home and rob him in his sleep, a plan so simple only they could mess it up.

The feature debut of writer and director Adam Oldroyd, formerly a documentary filmmaker, a trip to the Sideshow is well named, not quite a headline act destined for stardom but certainly worth the time invested, the emotion not quite landing when it needs to but many of the one-liners and comebacks hitting the mark as the evening spirals downwards into a freakshow of contacting spirits and digging up the past.

Les Dennis the washed-up entertainer given to bouts of vulgarity and kleptomania, April Pearson is Eva, possessed by an agenda other than that which she has told Nathan Clarke as the well-intentioned but dim-witted Dom, while the always-reliable Anthony Head is Pendrick’s long-suffering agent Gerald, popping up periodically to keep things on track.

Eva the sceptic and Dom more credulous, easily convinced that Pendrick can read his mind and place a curse upon him, does that mean that she is right and he is wrong? Not as sharp as Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks though it parallels many of the same ideas, all Pendrick and Eva’s arguments and parries are just a distraction from another game being played backstage.

Pendrick a fairly pathetic specimen, lonely and depressed at the opportunities that have passed him by, in her own way Eva is just as tragic having spent her life hunting for the perpetrator of an unintended injury inflicted before her birth, Sideshow a tragedy on two levels which is as much about the state of British theatre and the decline of the club circuit as it is about the characters looking for wisdom from beyond yet unable to appreciate what is in front of them.

Sideshow will be in UK cinemas from Friday 11th March

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