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Stage Review: Exit Second Banana

East West Theatre's circus freak murder mystery tears down the fourth wall and invites the audience to pick who lives and who dies.
By Jun 18, 2012 Stage

If you have nostalgic memories of the Choose Your Own Adventure books of your childhood but never managed to get through one without cheating - because it didn’t really count when you picked the door that that had the pit full of cobras behind it – Exit 2nd Banana could be right up your alley.

East West Theatre company’s latest production, directed by David Foote, is an interactive comedy murder mystery that puts the audience in control – although this time you really do only get to pick one ending.

The play takes place among a set of circus freaks, with characters including the likes of Euphemia the bearded lady, European mystic Madame D’Gyp, and a set of conjoined twins. Murder victims are selected via that time-honoured democratic method: yelling. So, in theory, you could go and see the play multiple times, and each time experience a new outcome; in practice however, it seems that some characters are more likely to get the boot early than other. Lobster Boy, for example – who WOULDN’T want to kill him off?

Throughout the play, the freaks show off their respective acts (again, who gets to perform and who doesn’t is decided by the audience), which is a very fun and diverting way to fill the time between deaths. One possibly less agreeable side effect of this play’s bulldozing of the fourth wall, however, is that the level of audience participation does extend beyond just choosing what happens next.

With that in mind, just know that if you go to see this there is a chance that you will be enlisted to participate in a custard pie-throwing display (fine), or end up wearing a lion hat and literally jumping through hoops onstage (definitely less fine). The lucky audience member selected for the latter was shedding actual tears; hopefully tears of laughter, but it’s hard to be sure.

The play is continually silly, but is punctuated by a few flashes of truly divine silliness. If you appreciate the fine art of completely asinine punning (and you should), you’re likely to get a good number of laughs out of this. (“You’ll never get between us!” declare the conjoined twins at one point, a fairly representative example.) There are moments of parody that are quite delightful too; most notably the times when the lights dim and goofy policeman Jack Valentine assumes the persona of a hardboiled detective to share his suspicions with the audience.

Exit 2nd Banana certainly has the potential to be very enjoyable, but probably only if you are in exactly the right mood for it and if you go in absolutely aware of what you’re getting: it’s pretty fun, it’s pretty funny, and it’s totally ridiculous. Don’t expect anything beyond that. Seriously, not anything at all. The characters have silly comedy accents. All of them. There is a man in a dress. He sings “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts”. You understand.

East West Theatre’s Exit 2nd Banana plays this Wednesday-Saturday at Strictly Designers United. Tickets 100rmb (presale), 150rmb on the door. For tickets call 135 6410 2955. For a full listing and ticket info click here.


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  • johnny truant

    Great review. Thanks. In defense of the idea of audience participation though, the cast are fairly selective about who they pick on to participate. A reluctant volunteer isn't anywhere near as fun as a willing one.

    PS the audience member who was playing a tiger on opening night (the one who was crying she was laughing so hard) most definitely enjoyed the experience, I spoke to her afterward. The rest of the audience also loved her "performance" in fact she is the best tiger we've had so far.

  • Tama Iti

    Jesus. Bertolt Brecht would turn in his grave.

  • lisali

    bravo!!! what a wonderful show ! I really enjoyed it and i'm glad i went. I'll surely be back to see a different ending

  • MirrorMirror

    I wanted to like it, but the jokes fell flat with me - they were very predictable. I didn't laugh once if i'm honest (and i consider myself a light hearted up for anything person!) but i'm glad i went because it was good to experience something different in Shanghai. It was a good effort by all and the bearded lady stole the show. He got lots of hearty laughs, just not from me!

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