Full Stage Splash aims to present a condensed history of the comic book from its humble beginnings to creator led ownership via stop-off’s to see the background to your favourite superheroes. Presenting the key figures, heroes and villains of this story, the action switches between part-lecture, part-dramatisation as it tells the narrative of the comic book.
Attempting to condense the history of something this sprawling into an hour long show is no mean feat. To do so requires an intimate knowledge of your subject, the skill to weave this knowledge into a compelling and concise narrative and also the ability to make it accessible to outsiders. Unfortunately, Full Stage Splash is a bewildering mixture of the above.
Featuring a quartet of actors taking on multiple roles (including the aforementioned various comics creators and superheroes) it rattles through at breakneck speed the development of comics and the social pressures on them. Now, when I say breakneck speed, I mean it. I got lost within the first few minutes – a condensed account this certainly isn’t.
You can’t deny the effort that has gone into the show. Writer and actor Michael Eckett knows his stuff, this is for sure. But there is knowledge and the ability to successfully impart this knowledge to others. It is a fine line to tread and here Eckett has fallen off the tightrope by trying to overload the show with references, times and places to the extent it becomes very difficult to take the information in.
Full Stage Splash has slipped down an awkward crack. The average theatregoer will be confused and lost amid all the ‘knowing’ references whilst the avid comics reader who will get the sly winks to the format may ironically, find the content too light. So who is actually this for?
A stag party were in attendance clearly thinking that they were in a cinema – talking, wandering in and out before finally deciding to (noisily) leave. Distracting to both audience and performers, I thought that the Sigil Club showed a remarkable restraint and resilience under difficult circumstances.
However, although this may have been distracting to them, it cannot change that this is a difficult show to recommend. One sequence seeing the quartet attempt to explain the complex continuity surrounding the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” storyline from 1980’s DC comics was an utter mess of undecipherable diagrams (get bigger pens!) and jumbled rapid-fire narration from all four actors. It would have been better had this been coherently explained at a less energetic pace by a single voice.
Although peppered with humourous moments, my brain was playing catch up with the previous segment, so where I was supposed to be laughing, I was actually digesting the previous infoburst. The clever idea to have Velcro attached to the performers clothes, thereby allowing them to clamp props and handy visual identification on them (the Bat symbol on the chest, for example) is nullified by fact that rarely are said superheroes key quirks and characterisation actually used by the actors.
Its a shame, as there is the potential for a Reduced Shakespeare Company style show about the history of comics – or perhaps a specific comic. Sadly, Full Stage Splash isn’t it.
The Fiction Stroker gives Full Stage Splash one stroke out of five: