So far this week I have seen two comedy shows. One featured three performers, the other a solo performer. One featured three promising young comics, the other a comedian well known for his appearances on television and film.
Are they comparable? Yes, because both shows plotted their course along the apocalyptic theme. It is 2012, after all.
Three Irishmen, one of whom apparently brought in at short notice after an accident (not) involving a beach and some alcohol, stood slightly awkwardly at the front of the stage in order to welcome their audience. Be it their Irish accents or not, their bumbling chatter is warm enough not to be alienating.
The welcome was necessary to explain how their show would work: it was a series of sketches, but sketches which all integrated into one larger story; that of a satanic cult seeking to end the world amid fire and demons, and a young man – Barry – caught up in the middle of it all.
A myriad of bizarre and often hilarious characters – a centaur and a human rat being highlights – whirl around Barry as he stumbles from one disaster to the next, before the time of reckoning for both Barry and the entire world.
It is not the most original story, but it is undoubtedly well written, able to take advantage of the fact that this sort of thing has been done before and can be plundered for comedic effect.
The show was not perfect, but it was naturally delivered and made use of their limited costumes – tuxedos, hence the penguin title – and set. Unexpected happenings – Barry falling off the centaur’s back, for instance – were exploited, so as not to make the audience cringe.
The characters were well-crafted, the jokes well-judged… and they had half a minute of puns about eyes, probably my personal highlight. A highly satisfactory experience. The last show is this Saturday, so if this review has whetted your appetite, get on it quick!
A Betrayal of Penguins: Harmed and Dangerous runs from the 8-11 August at 18.15 at the Gilded Balloon. Tickets are priced between £5-£10
The following evening, a packed Pleasance Grand witnessed Rhys Darby deliver a classy and high-quality show. The New Zealander, who starred in Flight of the Conchords as Murray Hewitt, demonstrated his great dexterity of talents as he cruised through an hour’s entertainment.
Darby’s concept is that, with the Mayans’ calendar ending in 2012, he’d managed to get himself onto a ship bound for deep space in order to escape the impending Armageddon. His only problem being that on waking up he has forgotten how he arrived at this point.
Thus he launched into a series of flashbacks, covering the span of his formative years, regaled in typically stand-up fashion. Except it wasn’t that typical, for here Darby showcased his abilities in sound effects (his helicopter impression being particularly impressive) and dancing. Dexterity being the appropriate word here, with the section of the show set in a Christchurch nightclub probably the standout part of the whole performance.
Darby is still, to some extent, moving from the large shadow of Murray Hewitt. There were references to his Conchords days, as well as the New Zealand-Australia rivalry which Murray had to deal with – he was never going to ignore Australia’s fairly poor medal record at London 2012, was he?
Nonetheless, this show did remain a product of Darby’s individual comedic talents. There was a fairly coherent path running throughout the show, seemingly random jokes picked back up and used later in the routine, the conclusion tying things up very well.
Is this show one of the greats? No, but it was certainly well-worked and well-polished. Darby gives a genuine performance and never lost his audience’s attention for a second as he dashed and danced about the stage. I doubt I will see a better act at the Fringe this year.
Rhys Darby: This Way to Spaceship runs from the 9-27 August at 20.00 at the Pleasance Courtyard. Tickets are priced between £17.50-£18.50