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Very Hard Times

The Dept. of Smelling Pistakes

20,000 Leagues Under the Office



Reviews of Discombobulated

Venue Magazine
First off, although 'Discombobulated' is supposed to be about two airport security guards, and both performers are dressed as security guards, and despite the fact that it has a very impressive and realistic set in the form of an airport security gateway complete with electronic display, hatches and screens, which someone (designer Mary Drummond? Bravo, Mary!) spent ages making, it actually has nothing much to do with airport security, and even less to do with international security. None of this matters in the slightest. Egged on by director Aitor Basauri (Spymonkey), Angus Barr and his athletic comic collaborator Merce Ribot use and abuse (each other and) the set like chimpanzees at a tea party: they swing on it, zoom through it, hide behind it, chase around it and then totally trash it. The set and the set-up are just there for them to play with and in, and are an excuse for 60 minutes of brilliant clowning and some stupid, stupid behaviour.
There is an appalling rap, a worse Tommy Cooper impersonation, some failed magic, explosions, paper planes and a mangling of Shakespearean texts. There is contact dance and interpretive dance, both offering a good view of a large pair of white knickers. 'Discombobulated' is an unapologetic symphony of bad taste, executed with deceptive precision and muscularity, that made me cry twice with laughter, hyperventilate, and be unable to look at my husband in case we both wet ourselves. We weren't alone.
Exploration of the clowning genre marks a new departure for Barr's Publick Transport, after more familiar text-based, intellectual humour (i.e. 'Dept. of Smelling Pistakes', with its unforgettable "micro-dot within a micro-dot" routine), and one in which risk-taking and experimentation with a distinctly Anglopean twang is the name of the game. Not everything comes off in spades - the text is at odds with the action here and there - but what does come off is unmissable. Highly recommended, especially if you need cheering up completely. (Rina Vergano)

Bristol Culture
It was only yesterday that these pages carried a review of a double-bill of Bristol Ferment shows, developing and work-in-progress productions being performed for the first time. Last year, Discombobulated was one of those shows. This year, it is fully-formed work and proof if any were needed of the success of the Bristol Old Vic scheme.
From Publick Transport, who earlier this year performed the startlingly original and utterly preposterous Very Hard Times at the Brewery Theatre, Discombobulated once again presents what at first looks to be a rather dry affair but one that soon takes you by the lapels into the most unexpected areas.
Malcolm McClosky (Angus Barr) and Esperanza Vallejo (Merce Ribot) are security staff manning the X-ray machine at an unnamed airport. The two engage in roleplays to examine their role and explain their jobs, but the uptight McClosky is soon despairing at the antics of Vallejo, who uses her moment in the limelight to show off to the best of her ability.
It is a very funny show, with moments of pure slapstick that will have you in hysterics. Barr is once again on fine form, Tommy Cooper expressions this time in the mix, bathos aplenty and a diving entry into the X-ray scanner that will live long in the memory.
Directed by Aitor Basauri, Discombobulated features non-stop action. I'm not sure what mad mind came up with some of the scenes on show here, but some of them are pure genius. Particularly memorable moments included a chase sequence straight out of a silent movie and a surprising musical ending.
The star of the show was Ribot, a Spanish actress whose one CV entry on the flyer told us that she made the quarter-finals of a talent contest in Palafolls near Girona in 1992. Occasionally breaking into a Shakespeare soliloquy, Ribot's cheekiness and non-stop energy was a pleasure.
Discombobulated is a brilliant title and a brilliant bonkers show.

The Guardian
Part of the Bristol Ferment season dedicated to new and emerging theatrical work and talent, Discombobulated immediately lives up to its fine title. Performers Angus Barr and Merce Ribot are giving a presentation about the importance of airport security. He looks like the guy with the moustache from Sparks and a wannabe police officer; she is full of beans, dance routines and passion. It's an odd, madcap mix from the off.
Some of the early moments falter, being too strange too quickly. They do a zany dance with truncheons and he runs about with a paper aeroplane; there's some deliberately bad security-themed hip-hop and curious bursts of Shakespeare and Tommy Cooper. It's a collage of bizarre, farcical interludes and it takes a while to gel, but they do build into something quite ticklish. There are some lovely touches, visual and spoken. Barr captures the self-important security guard to a tee, gleefully confiscating bottles of liquid and bellowing that they're "non-permetado". Ribot, playing various rule-breaking travellers, is hilarious as a woman concealing extra items in her clothing. A step ladder is just one of them.
What it does best is replicate the frustrations of airport security and also really naff presentations that can veer into unintended comedy. This rushes into that territory and takes unexpected stop-offs: Harold Pinter collides with Eternal Flame by the Bangles, almost certainly for the first time. The tense interplay between the two performers is the funniest thing here, and when that's heightened most successfully - they play a bizarre French couple running a restaurant at one point - the show can be laugh-out-loud funny. It's also unexpectedly moving in its final minutes, and suddenly, peculiarly beautiful. (Elisabeth Mahoney)

Bristol Evening Post
Sometimes absurd, but never boring
Thursday, July 28, 2011
PUBLICK Transport are a small, local touring group based in Bristol whose mission, according to their website, "is to not bore audiences."
With previous productions including 20,000 Leagues Under the Office it's clear that the particular vein of comedy the group mine is absurdist, anarchic, and, ultimately, polarising.
This most recent production, Discombobulated, plays at the Brewery Theatre until August 13 and embodies the very same qualities of its predecessors. Ostensibly a seminar by two seasoned professionals in the field of airport security, the play begins very much as it means to go on, with the performers leaping out from behind the set and fighting each other with truncheons to the theme music of The A-Team.
Things then devolve even further, with the seminar never really beginning and frequently devolving into arguments, magic, slapstick and to cap it all, a breathtakingly bad rendition of Eternal Flame by The Bangles.
It's brainless, ramshackle, and at times on the verge of being genuinely awful, but it's on that verge that Discombobulated succeeds, conjuring a truly unpredictable show that will divide audiences down the middle.
Despite its contemporary subject matter, its comedic origins seem firmly routed in the classic British tradition of acts like Monty Python, Les Dawson, and Tommy Cooper (who actually features briefly), where the ineptitude on display is perfectly intentional and masks dedicated, skilled performers who take comedy very seriously indeed.
Angus Barr and Merce Ribot are very good in their roles as airport security personnel Malcolm McClosky and Esperanza Vallejo. Crucially they are committed to the play's lunacy and are able to perform even the most absurd act with a straight face.
If the play has faults, it lies in its anarchic nature, where some jokes are perhaps misjudged or over-played, but because of its breakneck pace (the play is about an hour) those moments never last long enough to matter.
Discombobulated is impossible to recommend to everyone, but for those of us who can appreciate the good in the bad, it's a treat.