There’s something very retro about Fringe shows at Just The Tonic at The Caves. It feels like the Fringe I remember from years ago: ramshackle, a little chaotic and loads of fun. The shows feel a lot more varied as many acts try something different and they’re £5 a pop which is great value and makes you a lot more likely to give one a punt. It’s, um, “just the tonic” (sorry) to the corporate feel of somewhere like Assembly.
Crammed into the Just The Wee One room at the Caves, the room falls black and deathly silent as a scene unfolds on the video screen at the front. It’s a sketch about a doomed relationship in which a soon to be ex-partner sits silently while she has all the reasons she’s being dumped explained to her. It is just the right side of black comedy to set our expectations for the show, which is divided into several sections with Marshall performing as a different character in each. Each of the sections is separated by funny and sometimes sad videos which continue the breakup story and give Alice a chance to change costume. I think Marshall has more costume changes than Courtney Act’s show, so that should be a recommendation in itself really.
The film finishes and Marshall bursts through the curtains as her first character Greta Medina, a sort of obnoxious lifecoach that seems to be channelling the ghost of Rik Mayall’s Alan B’Stard. Very quickly we realise that no one in the audience is safe. Marshall marches through the rows of seats right to the very back to stare folk down, glaring wild eyed at each of us. She’s hunting. Maybe not for right now, but you know later it could be you that’s chosen.
Elsewhere we meet a lonely bird whose life is narrated by David Attenborough, a deliciously twisted air stewardess who walks us through the airline’s frightening take off procedures, and an elderly socialite who reads from her boozy and selfish memoirs before demanding drinks from the audience. Somehow Marshall manages to still come across as utterly likeable even when playing such monstrous characters. When I’m not watching dumbfounded with my mouth open, I’m admiring her energetic absurdity while laughing all the time.
This was one of my favourite shows at this year’s Fringe. It was something different that felt fresh and exciting. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for past and future works by her.
Alice Marshall’s Blood runs until 26th August at Just the Tonic at The Caves, 17:20.