Review: A Matter Of Time at the Caxton Arms

Like a first novel, this show tried to do too much and ended up unable to execute any of it to the fullest extent possible.

Review: A Matter Of Time at the Caxton Arms

During the Second World War, British civilians sheltered under the ground in Anderson shelters; hastily-erected underground bunkers that were repaired to when the sirens sounded and the bombers were overhead. Entering this show in the Caxton Arms’ performance space felt somewhat like that—rushing into a subterranean space, stumbling through the darkness to find a place to sit out the next hour. Though there weren’t any Junkers overhead, the experience left me wishing for the bombs to fall.

I tried to extend to Anjali Singh, a first-time solo Fringe performer, the benefit of the doubt. There were undoubted positives—she is a likeable stage presence, and confident, especially contrasted with the awkward, nervous fumbling from some of the comedians we’ve seen this Fringe. The show was relatively technically ambitious (for a one-person-show-with-sound-guy, anyway) and (again, unlike other shows this Fringe) was able to execute smoothly on pretty much all of it. It sailed handily over the low bar of basic competence—which is sadly not something we’ve been able to take for granted this season.

Regarding the content, however, there is less to praise. In some ways, it reminded me of a first novel—too keen to cram in everything the writer wanted to say and as a consequence being packed to bursting with mediocrity rather than filled comfortably with excellence. The segments that were the most ‘comedic’ didn’t amuse enough; the musical segments, while demonstrating that Hamilton-style rap is very easy to ape (it turns out rhymezone.com can be accessed for free) often also demonstrated the limits of Singh’s vocal range; the emotional personal story segments felt like an online confessional article from the early 2010s; there were also some factual segments which seemed to have wandered in from an NPR report. The whole thing—and this is where the show does lapse into a failure mode regrettably common to this Fringe—failed to cohere.

I didn’t find myself quite longing, like the inhabitants of the notional bomb shelter, for it all to be over. Well, maybe I did during the segment toward the end where she just did yoga without talking for what felt like about ten minutes. My partner also threatened to leave midway through if there was another Hamilton-derived song. Put it this way: I love hymns, having been a church musician for half of my life; the show contained a joke about hymns, literally featured a hymn being sung, and I still didn’t like it. A Matter Of Time showed potential, but in execution its reach exceeded its grasp.

A Matter Of Time was at The Caxton Arms on the 31st of May and the 1st, 9th and 12th of June. For more details, visit https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/a-matter-of-time-153066/