Cripes, this was a tough hour to get through. Over from New Zealand are Heidi O’Loughlin (of FanFiction Comedy) and her merry band to induct us into a sect, whose mysterious “leader” is the greatest comedian to ever perform at the Fringe.
It feels like my kind of thing – I like the coordinated baby blue jumpers to suggest creepiness – and we’re given name labels like “Brother Phil”, “Sister Susan”. It’s something a little different, why on earth not?
Unfortunately what transpired was an hour that felt more like a half-arsed dress rehearsal than an actual show. The foursome (O’Loughlin, her sidekick Steven, plus bassist and drummer who provided short musical interludes) relied almost entirely on goodwill for it to work. I can imagine this show maybe working above a pub with a small gang of like-minds, but this was a pretty primetime slot in one of the major Fringe venues, and people will come in having paid their tenner or so with reasonable expectations of being given something. It’s a different kind of contract, and the comics didn’t keep their part of the deal.
The energy was immediately sucked out of the room by some strange and seemingly improvised banter between o’Loughlin and Steven that was so stilted I wondered if they knew we were there. A prayer to the leader was read aloud, as were the seven sins of comedy – to no comic effect – then the show changed tack as they asked us to pretend it was a comedy club. Suddenly, a ray of hope. Steven became an MC and Heidi came on as a variety of different comedians to tell us some of the leader’s jokes. Needless to say the jokes were wilfully weak, and the parodies of alternative/dark comedians went nowhere and said nothing. Come on guys.
Some attempt was made to characterise: Steven was portrayed as a sort of eager stoner who wants more responsibility in the show but kept screwing up. Brother Joey behind the drums was bullied (in not a very funny way) but got his moment in the limelight.
I think the pitch was to create something Josie Long-ish and charmingly unpretentious, but there was no comedic payoff, no sense of theatre, no energy. The best it got was when four audience members (who didn’t cover themselves in glory either), walked out and it got a bit tense, but the show quickly settled back down into its amateurish torpor.
Review by Paul Fleckney