The List Operators

Review by Tom Hackett | 29 Aug 2009

This off-kilter two-man show from Australia is one of the unexpected highlights of this year’s Fringe. It’s a surreal sketch show in which Richard Higgins (‘Rich’) and Matthew Kelly (‘Matt’) take us through a series of lists, of anything from “ten different ways to start the show”, to a number of “places you shouldn’t touch Annie Lennox, even if she’s only a picture”. This potentially stilted set-up is propelled forward by the pair’s sheer energetic commitment to even their most bizarre ideas, as well as the comic chemistry between sobre straight man Rich and permanently naive and slightly guilty-looking Matt.

Confusions of logic and language are thrown out to the audience with infectious relish. At one point, they get us to repeat a number of “words that are fun to say out loud” (mollusc, dinghy and antidisestablishmentarianism are a few examples) and throw those words together in random combinations, creating weird images that we are left to imagine for ourselves. A brilliant sketch in which a man walks into a shop and is greeted with the word “hello” several dozen times by a deranged shopkeeper, who twists and chews over the word until it loses all meaning, is analysed on stage in terms of its semiotic structure, in a self-reflective moment that eventually breaks down into a delicious display of confused exasperation.

The duo have clearly done their homework, but their comedy expertise is worn lightly and employed to brilliantly silly and funny effect. You may not now get a chance to see them at this year’s Fringe, but as comic brains to keep an eye on, you can add them to the top of your list.