Twonkey’s Drive-In: Jennifer’s Robot Arm review at Grassmarket, Edinburgh – ‘dark and demented’
If you go down to Sawdust Lane you’ll be sure of a very strange surprise – a very odd Northern family indeed dwells there. In this debut play from Paul Vickers’ Twonkey franchise, meet starry-eyed Jennifer, the apple of her cheery chappy dad’s eye and who manages to slice her arm off within the first few moments of the show under the illusion that she’s Pinocchio’s sister.
With heart-rending failure Dad tries to build her a new arm, watched by mum Pam with acerbic disdain. Cue a knock on the door and the entrance of a mysterious inventor who promises Jennifer the prosthetic she yearns for – but at a terrible price. Will Jennifer get to meet Pinocchio? And who is the evil demonic neighbour boy Patrick Promise?
Songs crop up at the oddest of places, nicely musical hall/pop rather than staid Broadway – the raucous intro number, Jennifer ripping up a book with gay abandon for If Pinocchio Could See You, Father’s plaintive Salt Shaker in the Rain, and Pam’s Screw a Little Harder (followed by a jaw-droppingly icky bedroom scene).
It is a simply cracking cast who run with the insanity of Paul Vickers’ vision and make it their own – Miranda Shrapnell’s dementedly endearing Jennifer, Ben Nardone’s desperately affable Father, Vickers’ benignly sinister ‘Mr Twonkey as Inventor’, pianist Pete Harvey’s silky chords, while Simon Jay’s Pam wickedly steals the show with a torrent of cruel putdowns, libidinous asides and Valium-drenched double-takes.
Of course it’s wilfully not everyone’s cup of tea, but you will appreciate writer Vickers’ and director Jay’s skill at getting their actors to play on several levels simultaneously with an impressive totality, creating a dark, demented, possibly absurdist comedy that alternately caresses and slaps you from all sides.