Photo: Warwick Student Arts Festival Instagram

A barrel of laughs: Last Orders serves up hilarity and havoc amid arrival at the Edinburgh Fringe

Harry Keith’s original play Last Orders, under the direction of Jenson Zinman, is a wildly witty new comedy which is headed from Warwick University to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer.

The day takes a turn as the pub’s murderous chef serves rat soup… unfortunately named ‘Cream of Rat’ soup.

The plot centres around a stylish and traditional Scottish pub. Kenneth (Brandon Lipscombe-Holt) starts his first day, with manager Chris (Woody Knight) having big plans to keep it clean, serve gourmet food and above all else maintain the pub’s stylish ambiance and Scottish traditions. The day takes a turn as the pub’s murderous chef serves rat soup… unfortunately named ‘Cream of Rat’ soup. Meanwhile, something wicked this way comes, from Dunsinane battlefields to the McGonagall Tavern, with some Scottish supernatural intervention and a critic’s visit being imminently dreaded!

From the moment you enter the McGonagall Tavern, you are transported to the unconventional traditions of Scotland, traditions which American tourists Marvin (Max Fleming) and Barbara (Phoebe Just) are eager to keep up. The pair provide consistent comic relief, from their misguided efforts to keep drinking to ‘good health’, to their final moments on stage ‘FOR FREEDOM!’, the couple didn’t fail to keep the audience anticipating a laugh at the end of their every line.

The repetition of bits or jokes, which some may consider repetitive or ‘done to death’, led to more raucous laughter, as every iteration drew out different nuances in the comedy.

Brandon Lipscombe-Holt’s comic timing across the play was incredible, from unfortunate water swills, to his sheer impatience and struggle as he independently covers the tavern’s table service. As new waiter Kenneth, he kept the audience and other characters on their toes as he keenly tries to make a good impression on his colleagues, all whilst simultaneously landing in a catastrophic level of stress as he is left to pick up the pieces of the chaos unfolding around him.

The Macbeth references and allusions offer a sense of familiarity as well as comic relief. The three witches (played by Rosie Dalton, Sophia Diossy and Jo Tucker) were transposed onto an informal and tonally lighter setting, making for some dark comedy as well as their sisterly bickering, creating a level of amusing relatability for audience members with siblings. The repetition of bits or jokes, which some may consider repetitive or ‘done to death’, led to more raucous laughter, as every iteration drew out different nuances in the comedy. An added layer of irony came as the play saw Macbeth (Connor Davey) giving the three witches a prophecy, motivating the witches to watch and fulfil the deeds of the prophecy.

The combination of Keith’s writing and Zinman’s direction made for a well-timed new comedy which I’m sure will leave the audiences of Edinburgh Fringe belly-laughing.

Chris’ eccentricity upon welcoming Kenneth, whom he repeatedly calls Kevin with the utmost conviction is warmly flamboyant and a supplier of many belly laughs. Knight’s portrayal of Chris alongside Lipscombe-Holt’s Kenneth, who was bubbling in excitement at his first day, complement each other in their scenes together. The pair, with Isabella (Thea Crowther), another waitress who looks out for Kenneth and consequently wants the critic to be impressed, plan to make sure the evening goes swimmingly.

Connor Davey’s gruff, stand-offish, and shady depiction of Angus, the in-house chef, is not only compelling, but also a character you want to see more of. Although he’s often heard shouting off-stage, or imperatively divulging the menu of the day, Davey dynamically takes on the role as we follow Angus down his murderous road.

The final plot twist of the play, the critic’s entrance, landed perfectly. As well as serving Marvin and Barbara, the Tavern hosts Mr Livingston (Will Richmond), a prim and proper Brit whose demeanour is fitting for the likes of a critic. The staff are intensely keen to appease him, although he was ever-demanding – calling for a fork that was not too long or medium-sized. His fight scene with Angus, provoked and egged on by the witches, made for an entertainingly unexpected fight scene.

Overall, the play was outrageously sharp, and clever, and the cast were unified as a collective which culminated in a cohesively chaotic atmosphere. The combination of Keith’s writing and Zinman’s direction made for a well-timed new comedy which I’m sure will leave the audiences of Edinburgh Fringe belly-laughing.

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