This double-bill of new shows from Norwich-based theatre company Laughing Mirror could not have been more contrasting.
Two-hander White Girls is a punchy and engaging piece that deftly explores our attitudes to migration and charity, framed through the experiences of two naïve young women who volunteer to help at the infamous Calais Jungle back in 2016.
Told with minimal props and staging, Frankie Bloor and Valerie Smith play both the main protagonists and the string of secondary characters in writer and director Madelaine Accalia’s challenging tale. Smith’s expressive face conveys both the giddy joy and tortured lows of their adventure, with Bloor strong on accents and physicality.
The piece carefully balances comedy with a serious message, keeping you rapt throughout the one hour run.
Seasoned Professionals is the best type of mindless fluff, an enjoyably silly tale about the panicked reaction of the Department of Seasonal Mascots when austerity bites and an inspector is sent in to chop a festival from the calendar – cue daft jokes, slapstick adventure, and a sprinkling of comic songs.
Harrison Cole is deliciously over the top as a drunken Santa and flamboyant Guy Fawkes; Jessica Cuthbert provides the backbone as both the inspector and a divorcing Mrs Claus; and Harry Benjamin delivers several flawless falls as the ever-fainting Easter bunny.
Daniel Hemsley, Katy McEntee, and Ashden Woodrow show their range across a multitude of roles, and Pete Rapp’s vocals and ukulele ensure the musical numbers go off without a hitch.
The script – by James Darby, Chad Porter, and Holly Richards – has a mix of groan-inducing puns and smart theatre in-jokes. A few judicious cuts could help (for example, a plot line involving an intern isn’t worth the payoff) but overall it bounds along at a jaunty pace with plenty of laughs.
Both plays are transferring to the Edinburgh Fringe.
White Girls will be at Gilded Balloon Teviot from July 31 to August 26. Seasoned Professionals will be at Surgeon’s Hall from August 2 to 17.