Will Adamsdale and Chris Branch have devised a wry fable set in a cheery Philip Dickian dystopia, performed as a spin on the classic music-hall double act. If that sounds a bit schizophrenic,
The Receipt—an award winner at the Edinburgh Fringe presented here as part of the Brits Off Broadway series—does sometimes seem, like its protagonist, to suffer from a lack of clear motivations. The main story in this dismal future setting concerns Wylie (Adamsdale), a corporate cog obsessed with tracing a discarded receipt he’s found back to its customer. But stand-up comedy asides on the anthropology of the present interrupt his odd pursuit. Why, the duo ask, would any civilization label a medium brown bag “Medium Brown Bag”? Though Branch and straight man Adamsdale banter with panache, cutting their exchanges down considerably would give Wylie’s quest the attention it deserves.
At their best, Adamsdale and Branch blend their show’s influences into a manic cocktail reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s work. When Wylie tracks the receipt to Bar Space Bar, a combination watering hole and realty agency, an eerily chipper bartender and realtor (both played adeptly by Branch) shuttle him bureaucratically and hilariously back and forth. Branch also serves as a kind of onstage Foley artist, conjuring a clever mélange of low- and high-tech sounds: A closing file-cabinet drawer serves for an elevator, while the appearance of Wylie’s insufferable boss invariably cues James Blunt’s equally insufferable “You’re Beautiful.” The consistent intelligence of Branch and Adamsdale’s work smooths over the piece’s ungainly structure to make The Receipt a sparkling diversion with hints of something more.