Fringe Comedy Reviews: Beard and Laughing Stock

Feature by Craig Angus | 12 Aug 2015

There’s a wonderful sketch in Beard: The Grin Of Love [★★★★☆] that plays upon the very human need for constant emotional validation. A strange thing, because this is one of the most assured comedy performances you could hope to see. Matilda Wnek and Rosa Robson know their show is a winner – on several occasions you catch one giving the other a look of unbridled admiration that recalls Vic and Bob in full flight.

Like Reeves & Mortimer, much of what makes Beard so impressive is physical humour. Indeed, once the doors open not a word is spoken for several minutes and some of the costume changes (such as a pair of swimming goggles attached to empty toilet tubes) alone are hysterical. Wnek and Robson are skilled facial contortionists and, once they get talking, they’re as comfortable pulling off something elaborate and wordy as they are talking about peeing in the bath.

It would be wasteful to give away any more, but Beard get a standing ovation from their audience – drinking their beer and wrestling with them in the process. It’s an oddball masterpiece.

Where Beard are happy to let a joke stew, Laughing Stock [★★★☆☆] suffer from lack of conviction in what’s implied. If someone sharpens a knife ominously behind a man dressed as a chicken, that’s funny enough without a clumsy punchline about roast dinners.

There’s no shortage of talent on show – the aforementioned chicken monologue has particular zest, and an unfortunate ruptured Achilles is used to great effect. But, despite an array of clever ideas, the execution is lacking in places. It’s mostly a matter of economy: a sketch outstaying its welcome here, a weak catchphrase there, and an overreliance on plodding acoustic guitar numbers. However, Laughing Stock’s trump card is reserved for a cavalcade of an ending, where the infectious energy of the quartet becomes formidable and their musical dalliances unravel with smart self-referential humour.

Beard: The Grin of Love, Sneaky Pete's, until 29 Aug (not 18), 1.15pm, free

Laughing Stock, Underbelly Cowgate, until 30 Aug, 2.40pm, £8.50-10