How to be a Londoner in an Hour

How to be a Londoner in an Hour, a new play from Steve Hili, makes its premiere as part of the It’s The End Of The World As We Know It festival at CentrE17.

How to be a Londoner in an Hour serves as a guidebook for non-Londoners to understanding the British capital, a source of bizarre facts and a comedy goldmine. Presented by typical Londoner Paul Cockney (Matthew Houlihan), How to be a Londoner in an Hour is a masterclass in what it takes to survive in the city. In the show, Cockney teaches London newbie Alex (Stacey Evans) about how to survive in London, with help from Alex’s time-travelling future self (Chris Dingli) and the occasional appearance from former Mayor of London Boris Johnson. From tips on avoiding buying a round of drinks in a pub to a quiz on how to maintain the correct level of passive-aggression, How to be a Londoner in an Hour covers all the bases.

How to be a Londoner in an Hour (or 55 minutes) is a loving tribute to the city that pokes fun at the way Londoners live, believe and behave. Although it might claim to be an instructional guide for helping non-Londoners become Londoners, it’s chock-a-bloc full of hilarious titbits and in-jokes for locals. There’s a myriad of useless but nonetheless interesting facts about London. If you don’t know what the ‘London Bridge’ sexual position is, prepare to have your mind blown. The show pokes fun at Londoners. It pokes fun at non-Londoners. It makes fun of everyone and everything really – and that’s how How to be a Londoner in One Hour completely captures the spirit of what London is.

From the off, it’s clear this will be a fun piece of Fringe theatre – and not only because CentrE17 has a BYOB policy. How to be a Londoner in an Hour is performed with infectious energy. There’s plenty of comedy, celebrity guests (ahem), and surprise musical numbers. It is also very self-aware, breaking the fourth wall on a regular basis and offering (mostly optional) opportunities to interact with its audience. This makes the show very engaging.

The play mixes a variety of learning devices for comedic effect. There are educational devices like whiteboards, musical numbers, quizzes, case studies and weird and wonderful anecdotes. One highlight is a new song, ‘On the Underground’, which isn’t shy about detailing the misery of the London commuter. It’s clever, spontaneous and really quite funny.

For something that could be very structured, How to be a Londoner in an Hour doesn’t feel overly organised. While too much structure would hamper this comedy, a show like this probably needs to feel more cohesive. As this is a first performance, I’m sure the focus will improve with further work. At times, the pacing felt off. For example, introducing the audience (and Alex) to the premise of the show took a long time, while we seemed to breeze past some of the topics of discussion. That all said, there’s definitely some London charm in the show feeling a bit thrown together at the last minute.

How to be a Londoner in an Hour left me with a huge smile on my face. It’s a great premise, with fresh jokes that will appeal to both Londoners and non-Londoners. While there’s still a bit of work to be done, this has the potential to be an excellent comedy piece.

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It festival runs at CentrE17 until April 27.


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