Mr. Swallow: The Musical @ Pleasance
Nick Mohammed’s creaton, Mr. Swallow returns to the Edinburgh Fringe, this time in the guise of a hapless musical lead. The show sees the restlessly camp northerner in the midst of a dress-rehearsal for his own adaptation of Dracula, supported by a long-suffering and equally-flawed cast of three.
The show is slick, well-written and with live musical accompaniment and a smattering of big-stage theatrics; it holds the attention. Mr. Swallow's determination to usurp the director and continually weave in last-minute results is laugh-out-loud funny, giving ample opportunity to exploit the genre for comic effect.
The musical structure is a novel way to display Mohammed’s obvious talent as a character actor, but it feels as though there isn’t enough of him. At times the story veers a little too far into theatrical territory with long well-written musical numbers and earnest performances. Despite it being essential to the plot, the juxtaposition of Mr. Swallow’s silliness against the supporting cast leaves the others feeling insufferably thespian.
Mr. Swallow’s ability to deconstruct the pronunciation of a single throwaway word has the entire room in hysterics. Coupled with his meta comic-playing-an-actor-playing-a-part performance, the funniest parts leave people in tears. The ode to fast food and a scene with a simple ad-hoc travel agent are sublime, and undoubtedly some of the funniest scenes of the Fringe.
All in, there just isn’t enough of Mr. Swallow. The cast are clearly talented, but the extended theatrical scenes leave the crowd cold and diminish the overall effect of Mohammed’s cheeky, lovable creation. That said, it’s well worth seeing for him alone; the funny bits are so funny, you won’t mind enduring the rest.