Rating: 4 stars
What should you do if you struggle to fit into modern society? Find someone you like, or someone who’s like you, and build a commune with them. Such is the solution of Brother Tobias (Christopher Neels) and Brother Alexander (Patrick Holt) in They Built It. No One Came. – a darkly funny play by Fledgling Theatre Company.
They’re not hippies, and they’re certainly not communists. But the problem is, the brothers aren’t really sure what they stand for; their new lifestyle is formed wholly on what they wanted to escape.
Eight years later and the hemp-wearing, flaxseed-eating duo are living in their commune, Humbleton, still awaiting their first member. It’s not a cult, but nor are the brothers very charismatic, so how they can attract new members remains a mystery to them. Then Pablo (Callum Cameron) arrives. Fresh from university and riddled with anxiety, Pablo is looking to break from the mould, to pursue a simple style of work while simultaneously earning his university credits.
In this well-rounded story written by Cameron, we watch as peacefully boring routine – brush teeth, pick nose, feed birds – descends into tribe-like battle. But just as the drama seems to be building up to a particular conflict, involving all three brothers (Pablo has been promoted to brotherhood) confronting their aggressive, brick-throwing neighbours, a greater climax unfolds unexpectedly.
This is not the show’s first outing. Last August They Built It. No One Came. enjoyed a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe, reappearing for a sell-out run at the Greenwich Theatre in London this January.
It’s also not surprising that it’s popular. Cameron’s writing is witty and the plot is fully developed, with an unexpected twist. Mary Stephenson’s artwork is simple yet creates everything we need to see of the commune. Highly physical moments – the bursts of feathers, the body rolling dramatically out of the sheet – are pulled off smoothly and create a visually strong spectacle.
Edoardo Elia, as the all-singing, all-knowing narrator Bennie, is excellent. The songs, combined with Ben Maier’s music, layer on the sarcasm this blackly comic show requires. They Built it. No One Came. is playful, silly, and heaped with deadpan gags. It’s a quirky, light-hearted festival watch.
They Built It. No One Came. Played the Brighton Fringe until 7 May.