Festival Comedy list.co.uk/festival
PAJAMA MEN Strangers on a train with gags ●●●●●
The simplest way to describe the Pajama Men is ‘indescribable’, but as this is perhaps the least helpful word in the critic’s lexicon, I’ll give it a bash. Basically, the US comedy duo (aka Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen) invent numerous outrageous characters with bizarre backgrounds and weave them all into a chaotic, evolving narrative. The cherry on the cake of all this physical weirdness is that they do the whole thing clad in full-button winceyette jimmy-jams.
A long-distance train journey is the ideal setting for the rubber-faced pair’s new show. Characters encountered en route include a couple of hick mermaids, two English punks and a pair of travellers from Broken England. What makes the Pajamas’ hour-long series of micro-sketches so compelling is an uncanny ability to flip rapidly from one precisely drawn, outrageous character to the next, while the whole routine is beautifully complemented by musician Dominick Campbell’s background atmospherics. Even when Chavez and Allen corpse or slip out of character you never feel that they are anything other than fully in control of this finely-honed show. (Allan Radcliffe) ■ Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, until 30 Aug (not 17), 7.25pm, £12–£13 (£11–£12).
ONE MAN LORD OF THE RINGS Baffling speeded-up Middle Earth affair ●●●●●
The trend for cutting down and speeding up plays/films/books kicked off with the Reduced Shakespeare Company, and Charlie Ross is a veteran of the subgenre, having brought his One Man Star Wars to the Fringe in previous years. Dressed in a sturdy boiler suit he takes on the entire Tolkien trilogy in 60 minutes, manically throwing himself about the stage, adding a few knowing gags along the
way. Essentially critic-proof, One Man Lord of The Rings will probably sell out its entire run, however, to a casual fan. it is bewildering, repetitive and dull in places. There’s nothing wrong with in- jokes, but good comedy should transcend its origins and offer something for everyone; Ross assumes a core knowledge of the source material beyond a passing interest. To be fair, the title is pretty explicit in describing of content (if you don’t love LotR, what are you doing here?), there’s an inventive use of physical comedy and much of Ross’ aping succinctly captures the characters from the films. For Rings obsessives this is a five-star show (some sections of the audience were laughing, cheering and clapping wildly) but for the passing admirer, it’s frankly baffling. (Henry Northmore) ■ Udderbelly’s Pasture, 08445 458 252, until 16 Aug, 8.35pm, £12.50–£14.50 (£10–£13).
ALL THAT GOMEZ Brash bravado and thoughtful theatrics ●●●●●
Marga Gomez is wearing a gold lamé tracksuit top with boots to match, a pair of black-framed glasses and a headscarf. This ensemble is loud, brash and ridiculous but like her comedy, it’s hard not to like. At first Gomez seems hesitant; ‘can I talk about everything?’ she asks, before launching into lesbianism, oral sex etiquette and the sex clubs in her home town of San Francisco. The conversion of her American material to an Edinburgh show has perhaps slowed her stride, especially as it relies on American stereotypes of an Puerto Rican heritage. But when it comes to theatrics Gomez is in her comfort zone and producing hilarious results. A highlight is a re-enactment of a
scene from the sci-fi thriller Sphere, in which Gomez played a small part. The more she transforms into this serious role, the more absurdly brilliant it becomes. Characters are Gomez’ forte and fortunately there is enough of them to uplift the weaker observational routines. It’s a gregarious performance and Gomez leaves the audience wanting more of that shiny, gold lamé bravado. (Emma Lennox) ■ Zoo Southside, 662 6892, until 31 Aug, 9pm, £9 (£7).
for GLASGOW COMEDY see non-Festival magazine
34 THE LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE 13–20 Aug 2009
RICHARD HERRING Reclaiming symbols and raising standards ●●●●●
A few things have gotten under Richard Herring’s skin of late. He’s hated being misrepresented in the press, got hacked off when his precious iPhone was nicked in open public view and truly bristled when the Great British public stood idly by while the BNP secured a pair of seats in the European elections. All of these events happened during a period when, for his art, Herring chose to do a brave and/or stupid thing: don a Hitler moustache. But Herring is here to strive for more than to just ‘look a dick’ for our amusement; he’s seeking to reclaim for comedy the silly bit of hair nestling above the lip (‘not so much the elephant in the room as the caterpillar’) and to remind everyone that Charlie Chaplin got in there first. It’s high time we all tried to win back this hirsute icon in the exact same way that the Nazis reconfigured the swastika from a symbol of peace to insignia of hatred. While Herring’s trademark of deconstructing stand-up’s artifice through ‘characters’ conversing on stage is intact (expect the ten minutes here to run to about half an hour when it goes on tour), Hitler Moustache is surely his most passionate Fringe hour to date. There is no punchline available to relieve the heartfelt lecture about the power of the ballot box, but stirring gags about media representations of the Michael Jackson death and the ludicrous paradoxes at the dank heart of racism are just around the corner. Few would ever deny Herring’s credentials as a master of his form, but now he has upped his standard, broadened the palette and dared others to take his lead. (Brian Donaldson) ■ Underbelly, 0844 545 8252, until 30 Aug, 8.40pm, £9.50–£10.50 (£8.50–£9.50).