Seven Ages (3 stars)

An improvised journey through every life, with plenty of stops for laughs

comments (13)

This article is from 2013.

Seven Ages

This theatrical improvisation from Kevin Tomlinson is a series of scenes inspired by each of the seven ages of man, as defined by Shakespeare. Mostly a one-man show (with occasional help from a game assistant or member of the audience), Tomlinson himself is somewhere between a young Robin Williams and a Blue Peter presenter from the 1970s: giggly, genial, daddish and often silly.

He litters the stage with audience suggestions written beforehand on pieces of paper, and will pick one up, mid-scene, to determine what a character will say next. At its best, this leads either to funny incongruity or spooky aptness, and Tomlinson cheerfully lets the suggestions help him on his way through childhood, romantic relationships, the workplace and the troubles of later life. Despite being billed as theatre the show doesn't trouble itself much with conflict or poignancy, and is probably closer to improvised comedy than anything else. It is, basically, a chance to see Tomlinson dress up in daft outfits and have a bit of fun.

Some well-worn improv structures notwithstanding, this is a lively family show that promises especially big laughs for kids.

Just the Tonic at The Caves, 556 5375, until 25 Aug (not 13), 3pm, £10 (£7).

This article is from 2013.

Seven Ages (featuring Kevin Tomlinson)

  • 3 stars

KEPOW! Theatre Company. Hilarious, heart-warming comedy about the seven stages of life! The whole of life, in an hour! From birth - through childhood, love, ambition and wisdom - to growing old disgracefully! Created by and starring Kevin Tomlinson (winner of the Sunday Times Playwright Award) and Abi Hood (The Bill…

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1. Kevin Tomlinson6 Aug 2013, 10:05pm Report

It is always disappointing when a review does not accurately describe a show and does not represent the general opinion of the audience. Reading 'The List' review by Charlotte, you would - mistakenly - think SEVEN AGES was a kids show, that features no mask work in it and that the adults in the audience (ie the majority of the audience) didn't find it hilarious, inspiring, moving or dramatic in any way.

However, today we had a sell out audience of 150 people and 140 of them were ADULTS. Some even stood up at the end and gave it a standing ovation. Over the past 5 years, we have toured the show all over the world and over 90% of our audience is ADULT.

I really hope, having read The List review, people scroll down and read my comments here, because The List review totally misrepresents what SEVEN AGES is.

Saying I put on "daft costumes", act "silly" and mainly provide "especially big laughs for kids"...does not convey how much of the show is aimed at adults. Nor does it communicate just how entertaining, amusing and touching adults find the show; whether they come with kids or not (and almost all of the adults in my audience, do not come with kids).

I am also amazed that the review does not even mention the MASK work in the show! How can it not?! The masks are so integral to the whole show. It would be like reviewing a dance show and not mentioning the dance. Or a puppet show and not mentioning the puppets. Ridiculous.

The mask work is a major part of the show. It is the show's most striking feature. The mask work is a source of huge enjoyment for the adults and a really unique feature of the show. How many of the other 2,871 shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, feature improvised mask work? Yet no reference is made of it. This mis-leads the reader into thinking the show is just a bog standard improv show for kids; when - in fact - it is a unique show that combines masks, improvisation and storytelling, and is a show specifically aimed at entertaining adults, as well as children.

The frustrating thing is, last year we had many 5 star reviews and Lyn Gardner (The Guardian) praised the show profusely...but each year all past reviews are taken off the official Edinburgh Festival website. So this year, only The List review is on the offical website at: www.edfringe.com. One person's subjective opinion, mis-repesenting what the show is.

My hope is, that all the ADULTS who have seen SEVEN AGES and liked it, will tell all their ADULT friends and relatives about the show. Then these new ADULTS will come and see the show for themselves. The good "word of mouth" we have generated, will keep on spreading..... and we will keep on selling out. Thus, undoing some of the damage an inaccurate review can cause to ticket sales.

Luckily, we have had 6 sell outs so far. And out of the 900 tickets sold, I would estimate approximately 840 have been adult. Long may that continue. I remain optimistic, despite this inaccurate review.

2. Charlotte Runcie7 Aug 2013, 9:59am Report

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for taking the time to read my review. I'm sorry you're disappointed with what I thought about your show.

I admit I find it hard to see why you are so disappointed in my review, given the many positive points I've made about you and the show. We are not generous with our star ratings, so a three-star review from The List is widely considered to be an endorsement and a genuine recommendation. It is by no means 'bog-standard'.

However, I stand by my point that the show appeals to families (many would consider this a good thing!). In the show that I saw, you struggled to engage adult members of the audience in the improv (many were not willing to join you on stage), but there were plenty of kids who seemed to be hugely enjoying the scenes and keen to take part. My suggestion is that, even if you feel you want to aim your show at an adult audience, families reading this and considering where to spend their ticket money might like to know that kids get so much out of Seven Ages.

My main contention with the show is that it attempts to be touching and poignant but, in the performance I saw (which is, after all, the only one I am qualified to review), this poignancy was the one aspect which did not come off. That is my honest opinion, and the opinion I owe to readers of reviews. The audience members around me reacted similarly, so I have to disagree with you: this is not just one person's misrepresentative opinion.

Masks were not used in every scene, and in two scenes the mask was used to daft and silly effect as part of a general costume change. Seven Ages does not have the monopoly on mask usage in theatre. On the contrary, masks are something that we theatre reviewers encounter often in our line of work. If I had felt that the masks were the defining feature of the show, I would have written at length about them, but I did not feel they were any more remarkable than wigs, dresses, anoraks or any of the other costume items used in the improv scenes. I strongly feel it was not the show's defining feature. And, in 180 word review, we must get to the point and give our overall impression of the performance.

As I said above, three stars from The List, alongside a review praising a show's comedy and sense of fun, is seen by many as hard-earned praise. I am sure that readers will take it in the spirit it was intended. Given that you have had so many sell-out shows, I hope you will enjoy that success and not let what is, after all, a positive review trouble you.

I suggest you take up your grievances with reviews published at edfringe.com directly with them.

Kind regards,

Charlotte Runcie

3. Kevin Tomlinson7 Aug 2013, 6:41pm Report

Hi Charlotte,

I really respect the fact that you have responded to my comments so swiftly and I agree, that you can only review the show you saw. And yes, on the day you saw the show, we played the show mainly for laughs and didn't push the poignancy.

It was our third show and we wanted to give everyone a really good, light-hearted time. And yes, the kids in the audience laughed a lot. But my point was...so did the adults! They came up in their droves afterwards to say how much they enjoyed the show and wanted to shake my hand. And they keep on doing so, every day of the festival.

To imply that we don't generate huge laughs for the adults too, is just plain inaccurate. Maybe not all adults in the audience find the show hilarious, but the vast majority usually do. Comedy is a subjective thing, for sure. And maybe our form of comedy wasn't to your taste? But the majority of the adults in our audience laugh heartily and often.

To emphasise that the children laughed a lot and yet not mention the adults laughing a lot, is mis-leading to the reader. Couples without children, in fact, all adults without children could well be put off coming to see the show. And yet the majority of our audience are couples and adults without children. And they love the show. There is so much in it for them.

My second point is, to say the masks aren't a defining feature of the show and are on the same level as the costumes or wigs....I'm sorry, but that is ridiculous. Anyone who has ever seen our show, will know that's a ridiculous statement.

No one - after seeing the show - comes up to us, to talk to us about the costumes or wigs. After the show, EVERYONE always wants to talk about the masks. They comment on how powerful the masks are. They are always the main talking point. Along with the use of song lyrics and improvisation. No one talks about the anoraks or dresses. Everyone always wants to talk about the masks. Even if they have seen plenty of other mask shows before.

To my knowledge - none of the other 2,871 shows at the Fringe are, predominantly, improvised half mask shows. So it is a very unusual feature of the show. And it is definitely a dominant feature in the show, as I spend over half the time acting on stage, wearing a mask! Hiding my own personality and playing another character.

I can't recall any other reviewer, in the past 7 years, who has ever reviewed the show and then not mentioned the masks and their power to transform. Of course you don't have to mention them, given that you only have 180 words. But by not even giving them one mention, it gives a very inaccurate overall impression of the show and it's appeal to adults. Given that the masks are often the thing that the adults love most about the show.

My final thought concerns "adult engagement". Just because adults are a little reticent to come up on stage - and volunteer to be in a scene - this does not mean that they are not hugely "engaged" and entertained. That's a very odd way to judge whether adults in the audience are engaged or not. Even when we do a show that gets a standing ovation, normally only 6 our of the 150 people in the audience volunteer to come up on stage.

The way I judge whether the adults in the audience (ie approximately 90% of our audience, at an average show) are engaged or not, is by other means.

I listen to whether they clap or not. And how enthusiastic that clapping is. I listen to whether they laugh and how strong that laughter is. I listen to how quiet and attentive they are in the slower sections of the show.

I notice whether they come up at the end of the show and shake my hand, or not. Whether they tell their friends to come to see the show, or not. Whether they email us afterwards and Facebook us and their friends about the show, or not. Whether they leave comments on our website or not. Whether they come back the following year to see us, or not.

And on all of these counts, we get a huge amount of adult 'engagement'. To judge engagement on the number of adults who put their hand up in the air and volunteer to come up on stage, is just such a limited and inaccurate measure of the level of engagement.

This is why I felt compelled to write a response to your review. Because you didn't communicate just how much the majority of the adults enjoyed the show. You managed to convey how you didn't find it hilarious, but you didn't fairly communicate that most of the other adults did. And that you were in a minority, if you weren't really laughing a lot.

The fact is, at our shows, the adults often laugh uproariously and love the show. You just have to log on to our website to see all the numerous comments form adults in our "comments" section at www.kepowtheatre.co.uk .

The bottom line is, I think the show just wasn't to your taste. And another reviewer from the same publication, could quite possibly give it a totally different review and star rating (for better, or worse). After all, reviewing a show is such an intensely personal thing. Influenced by so many factors.

4. Morna8 Aug 2013, 9:49am Report

Well, Kevin seems like a cool guy.

5. John H10 Aug 2013, 12:38am Report

For what it's worth, I watched this show as an adult without children and absolutely loved it. It manages to be profound and engaging for children and adults of all ages. Tomlinson has crafted a show that is both funny and moving and I can thoroughly recommend it if you do or don't have children with you. It's rare to watch a show that delivers on so many levels and I found my hour in the caves to be entertaining and memorable for all the right reasons. It is a five star show in my book and although I wasn't one of the people standing as they applauded at the end, there were many who were. Well done Kevin on a charming piece of inventive theatre and good luck with the rest of the run. Watch this if you get the chance.

6. Kevin Tomlinson10 Aug 2013, 5:37pm Report

Hi Morna, Hi John,

thank you so much for your kind comments. It's much appreciated.

Morna - have you seen the show or just read the review? I'd love for you to see the show and give me your opinion, if you are in Edinburgh this August.... especially if you are an adult. LOL

If you're an adult, don't worry...you will be in the majority. Today I had 150 people in the audience and 146 were adult! I only saw 4 under 16s, as I watched the audience file in (before the show started). So it is definitely a show for you. :-) See you soon maybe.

And John - wow, such a lovely description of the show. I really appreciate you taking the time to write a response on here.

Best wishes, Kevin

7. Gillian Dunne12 Aug 2013, 8:30am Report

Hi Kevin,
After reading Charlotte's review I had to ask myself if she had watched the same show as I?
I highly recommend everyone to see this show, it is most definitely aimed at adults although I'm sure families would also appreciate it!
The masks are the show, they added humour when required & character & emotion throughout the whole show. I have never laughed so much, & my hands were red hot from clapping!
The show was very moving in parts & highly entertaining throughout.
I was volunteered by my darling in laws
(I use the term "darling" lightly lol) when you requested audience participation (I nearly died) & I have to say you & Abi made me so relaxed & comfortable I've never had so much fun or have I laughed so much during any one show. It was fantastic!
I truly recommend if people do nothing all year round at least go & see this show,
SEVEN AGES will give you a year full of belly laughs in one evening, we loved it & can't wait for you to be touring in our neck of the woods again, because we will be first in the queue with our many friends who can't wait to see this performance that we keep raving on about.

Good luck Kevin to both you & Abi & we truly do look forward to seeing You both in the future, masks & all ;-)

Love Gillian & "THE IN LAWS" AKA Phil & Val
xxx

8. Adrian Hill10 Aug 2013, 12:24pm Report

"John H", I recommend you go and watch more and better improv at the festival this year if you thought this show was entertaining and memorable. The List reviewer obviously had a word limit to stick to here, but if you want a full rundown of why this is technically substandard, check out the Broadway Baby review (http://www.broadwaybaby.com/listing.php?id=20012).

If you're dropping £10 on a show, you have a right to expect something much tighter than Seven Ages. As for profundity, ending the show with the old man reading a song lyric was as cheap and nasty - like finishing To be or not to be with a whoopee cushion. Crap.

9. Topkat12 Aug 2013, 7:19pm Report

I don't know what to say in response to this review as I am gobsmacked by the lack of understanding shown. To say it has no pathos and is a children's show amazes me. I have seen it several times - both in professional theatres and in schools and colleges and have always been totally blown away. No two shows are ever the same and I have cried at the end of most of them. If it's not to your taste - fair enough - but don't say the use of masks is immaterial, or that there is no feeling, etc etc. Kevin is a totally professional performer who deserves better than this. If you want to laugh and cry, be amazed and entertained - go along and make your own mind up

10. Kevin Tomlinson12 Aug 2013, 7:40pm Report

I'm starting to feel like marmite!!

Hi Adrian, sorry you didn't like the show. You obviously feel very passionate about my show.....seeing as you have searched for, found out and uploaded the link to my worst review ever (at Broadway Baby). LOL

Very industrious of you....you're not in a rival improv show - by any chance - are you?! If so...how very naughty of you! ;-)

I hope the people who have seen my show and liked it, seek out and upload the links to my good reviews. :-) Maybe I should upload a couple of links to good reviews? In the interest of fairness and dissemination of knowledge ;-) hmm....

Best wishes,

Mr Marmite... (The title of my next Edinburgh show)

11. Kevin Tomlinson12 Aug 2013, 8:45pm Report

Hello to those readers of this comments thread, who have not seen SEVEN AGES,

I thought it might be fun to provide links to positive reviews of SEVEN AGES.
(Seeing as Adrian Hill has provided a link to my worst review ever, in his comments box! I thought this might balance things up a bit) ;-)

The first is from THE STAGE newspaper - when we performed at the OXFORD PEGASUS THEATRE. The second is from the YORK PRESS newspaper - when we performed at YORK THEATRE ROYAL.

http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/35454/seven-ages

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/leisure/theatre/992576.Review__Kevin_Tomlinson__Seven_Ages__The_Studio__…

Hope they are of interest....

12. Donald Nammer13 Aug 2013, 3:08pm Report

The passive aggression is palpable and unseemly.

I reckon we'd all benefit by moving on from this. The review was positive enough that I might have given it a chance but the performer's confrontation has put me right off.

13. Kevin Tomlinson13 Aug 2013, 8:22pm Report

Hi Donald, fair point.

it was meant in a light-hearted way, but without hearing my tone of voice or seeing my facial expressions, it could be read in the wrong way.

It's Tough to have someone call your show 'crap' and upload your worst review. I found that rather 'aggressive' LOL

But, like you - wisely - say, Time to move on :-)

Hope you have a good festival.

(And Adrian, if you ever read this. No hard feelings. I'm sorry my show wasn't to your taste and I hope you have a good festival, too.)

K

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