It is often argued that the best things in life are free, and in the case of theatre the free fringe is incredibly important. It allows practitioners to display their work without the worry of finance. Everyone has their story of a free event they attended in a fit of spontaneity, only to discover a gem of genius. It’s a great way for talented newcomers to showcase their work. My point is this: the cost of something should not indicate its quality.

So it was with an open mind that I attended Mechanical Tiger’s new show Killing Bill Gates on Friday. With an interesting premise (employees of his foundation plotting his demise in order to free up billions of pounds for good causes) and a strong team behind it, I was looking forward to watching this new piece of writing.

However, despite the ingenuity of the central idea the show itself did not deliver. The script was odd and on occasion funny, though potentially comedic moments weren’t capitalised on. Pacing was an issue, and often I found the actors’ diction and speed of delivering dialogue stopped me from understanding what they were saying.

The characters themselves were one dimensional, with no attempt given to deepen them or try to be different. The supposed ‘big reveals’ were glaringly obvious from the start and the acting wasn’t strong enough to elicit any emotional responses.

Attempts at comedy were made, and were on occasion successful. But too often the script relied on simply being vulgar or having one character abuse another; it’s OK to be crude, but only if you’re clever with it.

It seemed like the play itself didn’t know what it was supposed to be. A comedy? A comment on wealth and social responsibility? Things like having a very odd moment of violence towards the play’s conclusion left me unsure. Nothing quite fitted together; there was no real sense of coherence.

Not everything was bad. For instance, Tom Harrison was brilliant (and underused), though I didn’t know if it was his flawless delivery or his lines that made me laugh so much. There are good ideas here, but they aren’t capitalised on and it’s a shame because (as I’ve said) the concept itself is brilliant.

If this was simply a work in progress, or the first showing of an idea I think I’d feel more positive. As a first draft, or with stronger performers it would have been more enjoyable. It just felt extremely rough around the edges. Things like having someone stand at the back of the room and shout ‘nee naw nee naw’ rather than using a real sound effect for a police siren made the production feel amateurish; there are examples of this lack of polish throughout.

All in all Killing Bill Gates was much like Microsoft itself – promises so much, fails to deliver and, ultimately, crashes.

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