Sunday 15 March 2015

BOND: An Unauthorised Parody, by Gavin Robertson - a review

Recently Gavin Robertson's one-man play, BOND: An Unauthorised Parody, came to Holton village hall in Oxfordshire. Being fairly local, I was able to join the audience and see what was a clever, amusing and affectionate pastiche of the Bond films.

The performance began inevitably with the gun barrel. Dark-suited Gavin Robertson assumed the classic pose, turned towards the audience at the sound of a gun firing, and stepped through a minimalist set of three six-foot rectangular frames to launch into a sequence of dancing women and leaping Bonds so familiar from Maurice Binder's titles, all brilliantly suggested by Robertson's physicality.

The plot concerns a threat to the lives of British agents posed by a silky-voiced, cat-stroking villain. Remind you of anyone? Yes, I thought that too, but things aren't always what they seem. An aged,  out-of-shape Bond – a standard trope in Bond parodies – is summoned, rather reluctantly, by his chief (clearly M, though never identified as such) and tasked with stopping the villain. As Bond nears his goal –  on the way racing to locate and defuse a bomb planted by the villain's henchman, Le Chiffon – he discovers the villain's true identity, and learns that his life is, and always has been, in the villain's hands.

Gavin Robertson pokes fun at many of the standard memes of the Bond films: Bond's flirtatious relationship with his chief's secretary, Bond's suggestively named female companion (Honeydew Melons), Q's workshop, a trick cigarette, Oddjob's hat, the villain's lair, the random appearance of Felix Leiter, the over-elaborate attempt to kill Bond. The Bond references come thick and fast, but there is also room for nods to other film series, among them Mission: Impossible, Rocky and Back to the Future.

If there was a flaw, it's that the play was so fast-moving and the plotting so intricate – Robertson's use of the three frames to create different scenes was ingenious – that the audience had to work hard to keep up. There weren't many guffaws or chortles, but audience members were probably concentrating too hard to laugh. The play was funny, but like any comedy, the laughs would no doubt come with repeated viewings.

The characterisation was very impressive. Gavin Robertson effortlessly switched from character to character and succeeded in making each character as individual as if they had been played by different actors, except in one case, and even then it's part of a joke.

If BOND: An Unauthorised Parody is coming to a venue near you, I suggest you see it, ideally more than once. If you can't see it, then fortunately the script is available to buy from Amazon.

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