Watson and Oliver - SkinnyFest 3

a dazzle of swift, silly, razorwire laughs

Article by Sean Michaels | 14 Aug 2006
It's the best of Fringe feelings: packed into a tiny black-box venue, sitting thigh-to-thigh with a stranger, a duo you've never heard of comes out, and with glittering eyes – eyes far cleverer than yours - they bring the house down. Watson and Oliver don't rely on pyrotechnics or puppetry. There's no high concept or overarching theme. There's no faffing about. Just two women whose charisma and timing turns their sketch comedy into dynamite – a dazzle of swift, silly, razorwire laughs.

The material ranges from outright nonsense to the simple cruelty of friends, from the French Resistance to ninja training in Aberystwyth. They don't lean for a moment on cheap pop-culture gags: everything is earned by their note-perfect quick-moving tone and fluttering expressions. Several sequences show an affection for the soft-rock of the 80s. In other shows this might be tired - yet another scene of Isn't-Michael-Jackson-Hilarious humour - Watson & Oliver use the soundtrack to revel in madness or the gently ridiculous. The sounds of Squeeze fill our ears while we stare longingly at a slice of melon.

Lorna Watson slides effortlessly between crackpot and straight-woman, lame Cockney to American choreographer, and equally Ingrid Oliver shows a comic intuition that's as much Stephen Merchant as Ricky Gervais. The comparisons aren't made lightly: these women are at the top of their game, hilarious and absolutely compelling. They make it look effortless, managing silence, hesitation, and bursts of drama with equal ease. One moment they are large and ridiculous, the next wry and blackly funny. Their eyes shoot daggers while their mouths flash smiles.

In a festival where even the best acts only seem just-about-there, it's a tremendous pleasure to find a show like this: dry, deft and utterly accomplished. Watson & Oliver won't just make you laugh: they won't let you stop.
Watson and Oliver, Pleasance Courtyard, Until August 28, 16:45, £9.50/£8 (£8.50/£7). http://www.edfringe.com/shows/detail.php?action=shows&id=WATSO