Some Funny

Tue 21st – Sat 25th May 2013

reviews

Jessica Hudson

at 17:06 on 22nd May 2013

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With the first few dreamy chords of 'Take Me Back, Please', Will Hislop’s opening gambit, enthusiastic snorts from the partisan ‘reserved’ seats were drowned out by the roaring of the rest of the audience. Some Funny, at the Burton Taylor Studio, has no need for canned laughter: this show is fucking funny.

After the event, back in the hub (the girls loos), reviews were raving and pheromones raging. Will (or ‘Sperm’ as he prefers) – in his togs – had made a clear impression. As he stepped up to serenade the audience for a third time he took the words out of everyone’s mouth. The 'Sexy Guy with his Guitar' was electric.

In fact the whole cast of 'The Buttless Chaps' is incredibly charismatic, all as comfortable with their material and the stage as a pair of moleskin trousers. The seamless presentation of a range of characters belies a cast that is only five-strong. Each member of the company brings something to their role. Barney Iley nails the up-tight man of status, both as his Lordship in 'Downton Abbey ADHD' and his Prime Ministership in 'Peace'. Kieran Ahern is visually stunning as the slimy Bond in 'Dr No Means Yes' and his portrayal of the perverted policeman in 'Porn' is rousing. I would hate to make any trite comments about Pheobe Hames being the only girl in a troupe of boys, in an industry of men… But it must be bloody difficult. And she storms it, taking the limelight with her exceedingly expressive face.

But it is Will Hislop and Barney Fishwick who really steal the show. Not only are they very funny men but they are also wonderful actors. Fishwick’s pieces escalate wildly as he engages with each character he plays, drawing the audience with him into the 'Bishop’s' flagrantly fetishised fantasies, the 'Snooker Commentator’s' matrimonial metaphors, and the 'Guidance Councillor’s' kooky crystals.

The duo’s professionalism in direction too cannot be overstated. They cover twenty-four sketches in less than an hour and a half, but each piece is kept short and sweet. The constant rollover works effectively to keep the audience attentive, greedily hanging on to every movement. The snappy sketches are refreshing whilst the sophisticated structure allows themes to be revisited (Blair, Marmite), giving a direction to the show amid all its variety.

The script too is excellent. The references called upon are relevant and Hislop and Fishwick do not deal with anything outside their own natural frame of reference, which makes the material feel very much their own. Their offering has a real youthful maturity: it is fresh and satisfied in itself without needing to aspire to the well-trodden material of better-established acts.

Sex certainly sells, but the company have not cashed in on any crudity here. Though some subject matter is smutty it’s dealt with in such a beautifully light-hearted way as to completely elude any potential vulgarity. Through a mixture of sophistication ('Porn') and silliness ('Sperm'), the group have abstracted the sexy and made it so self-aware that it is no longer anything base. This blithe approach also allows vaguely political themes of sexism ('Dr No Means Yes') and homophobia ('Buttless Chaps') to be dealt with without any sense of bitterness or moralising.

One might be able to spot some material that is a little too familiar to glaze over as merely inspired (Ben Target’s flipchart in Shampoo for instance). But all in all, influences have been sufficiently developed to be worthy of a re-spin. This production is so professional because it uses tested techniques to pick up on things that you know you want to take the piss out of but aren’t funny enough to work out how. These guys have nailed it. You want to both get them on your sofa and get them on 'Dave'.

I could call upon the cast’s well-used yeast-based refrain “you love it or you hate it”, but, with an improvement whose ingenuity may leave a top advertising agency reeling for years to come, as far as Some Funny goes – You’ll love it. Nuff said.

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