Mischief down under

Jonathan Trew trawls the streets in search of a chuckle.

Bit ofa David v Goliath type mismatch this one. in the red corner we have the might ofthe Gilded Balloon Comedy Circuit featuring heavyweight chuckle merchants Phil Kay and the L‘mbilical Brothers. in the blue corner we have the urbane surrealism of Mischief La- Bas and. bellowing from the crowd. but in no way contenders. are Jordan Le Roq and Calverto.

First into the ring are the Umbilical Brothers. two overgrown Aussie schoolkids who have been brought up on a diet of cartoons. westerns. science

fiction movies and stacks of martial arts flicks. The duo bounce around the stage i 3 through more material in ten minutes

acting out their favourite scenes of mutilation and humiliation. competing against each other in a show of macho one-upmanship and snot flinging —just like little boys. But here‘s the clever part: they make their own sound effects

by gurgling. whistling and clicking into their microphones. recreating the noise ofeverything from gunshots to the sound ofa condom being fitted. Synchronise the sound with the cartoon mimes and you have a show which is immediately funny and extremely clever.

Top ofthe Gilded Balloon bill is man of the moment Phil Kay. whose guming “mug seems to leap out of every newspaper and magazine at present. He's officially, for this year at least. the funniest man in Britain and his reputation precedes him by several miles. He is hyped as a comic genius and for the first half hour of his set it is not too difficult to see why. Almost nothing seems to be scripted. Kay skims along on a comic stream of consciousness. leaping from one obtuse idea to a new tenuoust connected obscurity. Kay‘s humour is not so much off the wall as round the bend and clinging to the ceiling. How weird does your mind have to be before you try to impersonate a year through barnet manipulation“?

The sheer pace at which Kay finds and uses gags is breathtaking. He burns

than many a comedian could think up in ten hours but perhaps inevitably he can‘t sustain the output for very long. After 30 minutes Kay is floundering and the muse seems to have skedaddled

Monty Cantsin at Salon Mischief

elsewhere. The end of the gig is saved by a swift injection of inspired lunacy as Kay isjoined by the Umbilical Brothers but the lingering feeling is one of disappointment. Perhaps it was just a bad night. perhaps the hype was over the top.

And now for something completely different: Mischief La—Bas in an odd evening‘s entertainment at Cotticr's Bar. Monty Cantsin resplendent in blazer and wall-to-wali sideburns. Frankie Savaloy in checked. long coat and busby hat and Zelda Swingblatt

complete with beehive hairdo invite you into their own world. The bar fills with punters and the trio drift around putting up balloons. offering bemused drinkers l)(m mots and peanuts from a lazy Susan. And. er that‘s it really. Mr Savaloy. ever the congenial host. plays a few barely audible medleys on his Bontempi and the crowd/audience drink their beverages and chat to one another the perfect. civilised cocktail party. Just to add to the air of absurdity a couple of my friends who i haven‘t seen for a while turn up completely by coincidence. We blether. have a couple of drinks and wonder what‘s happening. it's a bit like waiting for Godot. you expect something to occur. anticipation builds and nothing does happen. it‘s not so much a performance as an experience. Don‘t try to make sense of it. there isn‘t any.

Last and least is stand-up stress release with audience participation courtesy of Calveno and Jordan Le Roq. The ‘stand-up' is what the audience do in order to participate. Participation means singing along to backing tapes it's a karaoke. This isn‘t humour, it’s humiliation. To be avoided unless you enjoy making an arse of yourself in front ofa crowd. Mischief [xi-BUS takes place every Wednesday of Collier '3 Bar. 8. 30pm. Check listings for The Gilded Balloon Comedy Circuit.


Royal lyceum, Edinburgh. Until 4 March.


Three bedroom. Four couples. A party. Alan Ayckbourn’s mid-70s analysis of marriage and its various stages of resignation exposes the ridiculousness of a class in search of itself. Every neurosis, peccadillo and social tic is captured and magnified via the public fall ins and outs of the sort of constantly feuding couple who at first irritate, than merely here. And that’s the trouble really. We know it all too well, and why anyone should give a flying fig about anyone here is beyond me.

Given the social upheavals in Britain since it was written, the play seems fossilised, coming as it does from an era when sitcom defined a nation and yuppies had yet to be identified, while in the post-permissive society fallout adultery was trickling slowly across the class divide in pre-AIDS paradise. The craftsmanship and sheer technical dexterity of the play, however, is faultless. Director Robin iierford seems to be as much a part of the Scarborough furniture as Ayckboum himself, and clearly knows

the ropes, wringing laughs from every line and expression, while comic business is slick to the point of

? perfection. (Neil Cooper)


Seen at Paisley Arts Centre. On tour until March 14.

There’s an uneasy balance between serious symbolism and pantomime style humour in The Keeper of the Keys, TAD Theatre Company’s new play for schools. Lady Claw, a Hitler-cum- lierod figure, tyrannises over the citadel state of Crimstane, and only Mercy Dirge, a survivor of Claw’s mass murder of children, stands between her and world destruction.

A necessarily short children’s play, The Keeper bites off a little more than it can chew, with issues no less significant than war, genocide, xenophobia and global pollution. However, the use of Orwellian double- speak does bring the piece, a mixture of the gothic and the futuristic, into our own times. Ciaw’s war on youth is couched in terms of ‘cleansing’ and ‘correction’, so resonant of the ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘collateral damage' of recent world conflicts.

Despite good performances all round, there simply isn’t enough room for the development of character here. More could have been made of the relationship between Mercy and Pinch, an escapee from the child ,‘correction wing’ (played excellently by Steven Leach), which is the storyline most likely to emotionally involve a young audience.

A genuine attempt, The Keeper of the Keys nevertheless loses its footing somewhat as it tries to )uggle the grotesque with the funny. (Mark Brown)


Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh. Until 25 Feb.

it was James VI, inspired by dabblings in the ‘science’ of demonology, who first imported the notion of witchcraft to these shores. ilis imbalanced megalomania led to a large-scale purging and, as ever, it was the common folk that suffered first. iiere both former mistresses of Jamie’s firebrand nemesis Bothweil are tortured and, perhaps more importantly, denied, while footsoldiers from both camps do their duty without question. A remarkable scene between James and his man Davie might make an entire nation’s manhood flinch as the perceived image of kingly machismo ls unambiguously subverted.

Raymond Ross has created a near gothlc world of ambition-led political machinations and individual suffering. The Scots delivery is raw and argumentative, as impressionistic near-tableaux move into naturalistic scenes of blunt vigour and conviction. The production both in style and tone harks back to the powerfullly didactic work produced by United Artists Scotland a few years back, as well as to a golden age of classic Scots dramas. Amongst a cast that’s a refreshing mix of seasoned experience and fresh-faced enthusiasm, Paul iioian Blair provides )ust the right amount of vulnerability for James’ mania.

At the end, when all that’s left is an empty throne sitting dolefuily behind the true instrument of power, one is left breathless at its implications. Too often this sort of thing can be reduced to revisionist history lessons but Ross, along with director Robin Peoples and

a committed Brunton company, can be proud of creating such valuable theatre with such limited resources, proving that in the axing of its grant, the SAC has made a serious mistake. (lieil Cooper)


The Arches, Glasgow. Until Sat 25. Christmas has come early to the Arches. The pantomime season is barely over for the bigger theatres, and already it seems like the Arches is limberlng up for the festive frolics

' with this adaptation of Beaumarchais’

tale of love and cunning plans that cannot fail.

Everything about the production has that camp panto style, from the artificial set in bold primary colours to the conspiratorial asides to the audience to the dippy songs. An expression is not pulled unless it can be grotesquely exaggerated, a pose is not struck unless it can produce giggles in the audience and the Scottish accents make Taggart sound RP - Russell Barr as the music tutor Don Basile goes straight for the Victor and Barry Kelvinside affectation, and the initial exchange between Tom McGovern and Cailum Cuthbertson as Count Almaviva and Figaro is pure dead Francie and Josie.

Add to this Dr Bartholo (Robert Carr) and his absurd tippy-toe mlnclng and trotting and a very physical direction from Caroline Hall which keeps the cast on its toes and has them running down the aisles (such as is possible in a theatre space this small) and you’d be forgiven for wondering how they would work in throwing sweets to the audience, who were waiting to be divided into two sections for the final singaiong. Oh no they weren’t. Oh yes they were. (Fiona Shepherd)

54 The List 24 Feb-9 Mar 1995