Told By An Idiot make their first attempt at political theatre in And The Horse You Rode In On, conceived by Hayley Carmichael and director Paul Hunter, and devised with the cast (Javier Marzan, Bettrys Jones, Martin Hyder, Annie Fitzmaurice and Jane Guernier; plus Nick Haverson who played Marzan's roles in the first half of this current run at the Pit.) Loosely themed around people committing extremist acts, the various plot strands include a troupe of 17th-century acrobats crossing the Alps and a sleeper agent in 1930s London, all linked through the theme of terrorist attacks on Grace Brothers, the fictional department store from 1970s sitcom Are You Being Served?
The comedy is very broad and there's a lot of great laughs here, the sillier the better: My favourite was a gag during a tour of the monkey enclosure at London Zoo - "It's a little-known fact that chimpanzees can survive for up to two hours underwater. If they're provided with the appropriate scuba equipment." Sophia Clist's set is ingenious and the actors work their socks off for the 95 minute running time but although it succeeds as a comedy, it doesn't work as political theatre. Not because of the broad comic format, which I think is a welcome breath of fresh air, but because of the very vague intention behind the show (Hunter's note in the programme is just as frustratingly oblique about exactly what the ideology behind the show is, more or less admitting that there isn't one.) Good political theatre has something to say and the fact that And The Horse You Rode In On never gets round to deciding what this is, let alone saying it, is what ultimately made the show feel unsatisfying to me.
And The Horse You Rode In On by Told By An Idiot is booking until the 14th of May at The Pit.