Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose
2nd – 26th August (17.30)
Somebody needs to tell The Men with Coconuts that Improv should be about more than just getting to the end of a sketch without running out of words. There is a difference between being contrived, and being absurd. Throughout this excrutiating hour, they consistently achieved the former, without ever rising to the level of craftsmanship demonstrated by their peers in The Bearpit Podcast, let alone the unbridled joys of watching peter Cook and Dudley Moore poke and prod each other into mis-steps and blind comedic alleys as ‘men in a pub’. They begin by committing the cardinal sin of improv, taking the audience’s suggestion, and changing it to suit their needs.
“Give us a word!” they cry, “Niche!” comes the response. “We’ll go with quiche” they proclaim, and this sets the tone for the rest of the performance. They whizz through a series of mundane scenes, from a bakery shop to the trenches of World War 1, at one point proclaiming that ‘making balloon animals to fight The Bosch’ is a bad idea. Well, they at least got that right. There is functionally talented singing on display throughout, but this is overshadowed by rambling nature of the dialogue, unfocussed, unfunny and unoriginal. (There was a blatant appropriation of a very fine Austin Powers gag about a series of unfortunate events) This, however, was not the greatest sin of the afternoon.
Twice, they decide to make characters ‘funny’, by making them gay. This is the kind of pathetically retrograde trope I was used to seeing at improv in the 90’s, trying to squeeze laughs out of the audience by having 2 visibly uncomfortable male actors pretending to be a gay couple. In case we didn’t get ‘the gag’, at one point one of the performers interrupts a gay wedding by shouting “Gay!” at the couple. I despair.
There was a highlight halfway through in a scene where a pair of chickens decided to go on a sex strike in an effort to show a chauvinistic, gaslighting, rooster the error of his old fashioned ways. ‘Cock blocking’, if you will. But by the end of the scene I had lost count of the ‘topical’ virtue signaling references they were throwing in, like a live version of a Guardian comments thread. They tied all of the narratives together at the end, and admirably kept track of the myriad characters they had created throughout the performance, but by then, the battle was lost.
As they said at the start, every show is different. Some days it’s 5 stars, and some days it’s 1. Sorry lads, it was indeed 1 of those shows.