Just the Tonic at The Caves
Aug 16-26 (16:50)
Material: Delivery: Laughs:
The show began with an excitable character with an indeterminet Euro-sleaze accent welcoming us and directing us into the venue which was lit up with flashing coloured lights and loud disco music. He tried to get us up and dancing with him – I call it ‘vaughing not vouging’ he said – before demonstrating to us his beatboxing skills. He mixed himself live accompanying himself on a cod-German ditty about breasts. Just as I was getting used to – and warming to – this rather ridiculous fellow who was reminiscent of one of Sacher Baron Cohen’s wilder creations he disappeared before our eyes. It was a shocking moment which took me a few minutes to recover from. It turned out that this whole charade was the ‘real’ Charlie Partridge’s comment on the nature of artifice and the efforts we go to present a fraudulent more exciting, more charismatic version of ourselves.
What followed was a stand up routine based around the familiar tropes of crappy jobs and difficult relationships. We learned about Partridge’s work as a voice over artist, snack ambassador and bingo caller and his dissatisfactions with both his career and love life. Partridge presents himself as a self-depreciating melancholy fool forever chasing an unrequited love to ridiculous extremes. In other hands this could have made for tiresome company but there was a warmth and pathos to the material that made me connect with it despite the hipster jet-setting lifestyle it portrayed. In fact as he later commented he had lulled us into feeling pity for him despite his privileged position. Some of the points Partridge makes about self-delusion and denial were interesting but neither the self-analysis nor the comedy went quite far enough. Indeed in more adept comedic hands there would have been great mileage in a dissatisfying trip to a San Franciscan orgy but the laughs were thin on the ground. The situation wasn’t helped by a a mass walk out during this section by a school teacher and their class which only added to the bizarre nature of the enterprise.
More could have been made of Partridge’s box of musical tricks but this was only intermittently dropped in to the show at certain points. These demonstrations of his skills behind the mic creating gibberish songs of faux Asian trance or in one memorable skit the effects of a DMT trip were amusing and worth exploring more. Despite this though overall I was left rather bemused by the confessional nature of the material. The first part had rather thrown my ability to trust him and this in a sense never quite recovered. This of course wouldn’t have mattered if I was caught up in the laughter but although I found him an interesting and engaging performer I simply didn’t find it funny enough. I felt the act worked best when playing up the silliness. Partridge clearly has a gift for puns and wordplay which I felt he didn’t really utilise enough. More could have also been made of his skills as a musician/beatboxer too and by the end I was rather hoping for a return from the faux-German character and his silly songs. In his brash, larger than life way he felt more compelling than the sweetly deluded loser he portrayed in the main act. A strange slightly disjointed show; part confession, part song and dance routine and part character comedy it succeeded in not really satisfying any of those aspects whilst remaining an intriguing oddity all the same.