Another import from the Edinburgh Fringe, Virtuous Flock is in the Arcola's smaller studio for just a week. A lot of the shows that transfer from the Festival are larger-scale ones that were probably intending to do a London run anyway, but this feels like most of the shows I remember from my own time in Edinburgh, a young company putting on a compact but clever romp. Billy Barrett's one-acter is a spoof of Gothic "penny dreadful" stories, and indeed features a character called Penny Dreadful (Rowan Kassab,) daughter to a Baron and packed off to be taught by some rather S&M-fixated nuns when her father (Barrett) remarries. When he in turn dies Penny returns home for his funeral, and to gorily dispose of his second wife, mistress and maid. This sort of thing is right up my street but to start with I was mildly amused at best, it felt a bit as if director Lauren Overs' hadn't quite got her cast on the same page as to how broadly they were going to play it. Barrett's script has a lot of good one-liners but again I don't think they were always best-served - Kassab's comic timing in particular is not great.
Happily as it goes on and gets sillier, the show also gets a lot funnier, and by the end it does live up to the entertaining campfest you would hope it to be. Emma Caller is particularly good as the disgusting maid (there didn't seem to be any part of the set she wasn't willing to lick) and also gets the best line in the show - a gag involving curry and a dead man's ashes that's one of the funniest I've heard in weeks, and certainly the filthiest. A fun romp but some future talent on show here as well.
Virtuous Flock by Billy Barrett is booking until the 16th of October at the Arcola Theatre.