Old-time vaudeville transplanted to the present
4 stars
Another year, another excellent off-Broadway New York company debuts on the Fringe. Unlike their predecessors The Riot Group and T.E.A.M., however, Axis Theatre Company aren't blazing trails with their original scripts. They've managed to create one of the freshest pieces of theatre on the Fringe with an almost forgotten libretto from 1848 and the scraps of a long-lost tradition.

Benjamin A. Baker's A Glance at New York was the smash hit of old-time New York vaudeville; tales of roaring boys and their gals, and the swaggering, kind-hearted braggart Big Mose who lorded over them. This production is not a straightforward contemporary reinterpretation — although it's never explicitly signposted, the disorientated, disheveled cast appear to be playing the original vaudeville performers themselves, who have somehow seeped through time. Fusing the old-fashioned saucy farce of vaudeville to contemporary NYC trends for mass-character storytelling, Axis have created a new art form wholly specific to their city, which is always the central character.

When not centre stage, the performers sink back into an amorphous mass, a Greek chorus of beggars and shysters in perpetual fidgety movement, making ghostly poetry out of Baker's blustering, bombastic script. (Kirstin Innes)

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