Fringe Comedy Reviews: The Pin, Yve Blake & Routines
No show emerges fully formed. The device of showing the audience how a show comes about has been employed a few times and to varying levels of success. Does showing your working earn you extra marks?
One example is Routines [★★★☆☆]. It’s an interesting idea – three comedians and their compere (Stephen Carlin, Dana Alexander, Matt Roper/Wilfredo and Will Mars) improvise backstage banter, then perform their set pieces to the audience. However, it never quite gels and is a little hit and miss today, though hopefully will even out during the run. It is largely because the quartet's backstage personae don’t resonate with their onstage ones. Carlin seems a little awkward doing improv and his onstage schtick is a bit old-school. Then Alexander contrasts her unfocused offstage character, with an absolute powerhouse performance onstage: like the fireworks at the end of the Festival she’s tightly timed, mercilessly efficient, and very, very loud. And, although I preferred Alexander's performance, the Matt Roper/Wilfredo dynamic worked best overall because there were clear delineations between his two characters – and because his softly spoken improv persona was as much a character as the buck-toothed Spanish troubadour Wilfredo.
Over at Pleasance Dome is a sketch show which neatly dissects the fundamentals of a sketch show. It’s deftly handled by Ben Ashenden and Alex Owens, two skinny posh boys in ill-fitting shirts and slacks, ostensibly trying to create the ‘perfect last sketch’. The Pin: Ten Seconds With The Pin [★★★★☆] is solid, clever stuff. Each element (peculiar situations, use of props, miscommunication) is illustrated by slightly surreal quick-fire sketches, always with a twist in the tale. The duo don’t miss a beat. How much the ‘making of’ idea brought to the show is unclear. As they are just plain funny they perhaps don’t need to explain why.
Admittedly, when Yve Blake: Lie Collector [★★★☆☆] first appeared, gurning for the audience and draped in a duvet cover – the kind of hyperactive, attention-seeking nightmare to send us screaming for the hills – it seemed like this would be a long hour indeed. But, like a Greek soldier in a wooden horse, Blake takes you by surprise. She is sharp, and this is a smart set. Over an hour, she takes us through the journey of her show creation, from setting up a website, to eliciting confessions of bigger and bigger lies from strangers, to turning these stories into high energy comic songs (the vegan cheese thief song was particularly ace). However, the show then swerves quite abruptly off the comedic superhighway into the car crash of the human condition. It could be said that Blake, on one hand, is Facebook – in-your-face, ignorant of personal space, relentlessly upbeat… but she’s also TED Talks - a woman with a laptop, presenting challenging truths.
Yve Blake: Lie Collector, Pleasance Dome, until 31 Aug (various dates), 5.20pm, £8-10.50
The Pin: Ten Seconds with The Pin, Pleasance Dome, until 31 Aug (various dates), 7pm, £9-11
Routines, The Free Sisters, until 30 Aug (various dates), 3.45pm, free