Fringe Comedy Reviews: Secrets and Regrets

Comedy drama at the Fringe: we review The Double Life of Malcolm Drinkwater and 10x10x10, plus a solid stand-up performance from Bec Hill

Feature by Jenni Ajderian | 18 Aug 2015

The eponymous hero of The Double Life of Malcolm Drinkwater [★★★☆☆] is keen to explain that killing is harder on the mind than it is on the body, and he seems to get far too involved in the lives of his targets. The comedy is good, but the same jokes are told over and over again with the script at pains to hammer home the point that Everyone Has Secrets. It mostly does so through arty asides and monologues which often feel superfluous, and rarely add to the comedy itself.

What is done with this idea, however, is impressive: we watch Drinkwater getting to know his latest target with intrigue, and are treated to a story with pleasing twists and turns. What we think is a secret is actually a cover-up; what we think is a lie is, however improbably, true. Each character has their own hopes and dreams aired on stage, and each is a little bit hapless in their own blundering way.

The line that Malcolm Drinkwater flits across never establishes if this is a comedic play or a dramatic comedy, but another Comedians Theatre Company production is perhaps more successful. 10x10x10 [★★★★☆] offers ten-minute monologues from ten comedians to celebrate the company's tenth year – each piece paints a brief picture of a character at a critical point in their life, and who otherwise would not get to speak out.

The monologues each have a different writer, director and performer, and the group presents a different set of monologues each day, so the variety of styles gives an excellent glimpse into the CTC's work over the last decade. We are introduced to rambling fops and a quick-witted elderly lady, and then to a woman's truly absorbing story about all the boys kissed in her lifetime. A mixture of belly-laughs and catharsis makes for a mixed show, and a great addition to any afternoon's comedy or theatre.

Skipping between these worlds of comedy and tragedy, Bec Hill [★★★★☆] also makes use of catharsis in her hour of stand-up, Caught on Tape. Hill put a call out on social media for the regrets of strangers, and found herself fielding responses from nearly 300 people. Just as everyone has secrets, everyone too has regrets: from drunk regrets to big, scary end-of-life regrets and simple bad date blunders. Hill walks us through great fistfuls of these, with the odd aside to philosophise about the value of these memories. The regrets themselves are more important comedically, but what is more important emotionally is how we deal with them and move on.

Hill dances across her tiny stage with blink-and-you'll-miss-them one-liners and puns that come out of nowhere. These add a lot of levity to a potentially over-thoughtful and dark hour, though at times her script sounds too rigid, and we all have more fun when she's just chatting away, turning her hand to awful attempts at different accents and taking audience participation to an extreme.

Bec Hill: Caught on Tape, Gilded Balloon, until 31 Aug (not 19), 5:30pm, £5-9.50

The Double Life of Malcolm Drinkwater, The Counting House, until 30 Aug (various dates), 1:30pm, free

10x10x10, Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug, 4:30pm, £7-12