Thursday, August 09, 2012

Edinburgh 2012: Comedian Dies in the Middle of a Joke

While it would be true to say Ross Sutherland's new show fuses interactive theatre with stand-up comedy, it does much more than that: at times it's like a human feedback loop, an iterative narrative given breath, at others it's more of a Sisyphean party game, an endless session of musical chairs with bad wigs and polyester shirts.

The premise is this: during a gig at London comedy club in the mid-1980s the comedian Joe 'Pop' Pooley met his end. His jokes died and then he did. Sutherland, acting as compere, requests that his audience help him to recreate the last five minutes of Joe's life. Every person is made to play their part. Some get to heckle at chosen moments, while others actually get a chance to play the comedian, reading their lines from an autocue.

At the end of each scene, everyone shifts seats and adopts a new role, the reset button is hit and things begin again. While Joe's lines never change, the audience's responses develop with each repetition. The success of this depends very much on how well people embrace the concept and in the main they take to it. The beauty of the piece lies in the variation and anticipation, the growing awareness that you can shape things - though, of course, as in life, the final outcome is inevitable.

Reviewed for The Stage.

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