Laughing Horse @ Bar 50
Aug 5-14, 16-28 (16:45)
Gigging for a month, with a bucket for payment, in a converted meeting room in the Grassmarket where the flyerers can’t collect flyers and the barmen don’t know which beer they’re serving, could be seen as problem to some. Ollie Horn & Kathryn Henson however use this to their benefit in a manner which highlights their craftsperson-ship from the get go. Kicking off with some Groove Armada (at audience request) they beginning bantering with the crowd from the moment the doors open. I feel that we’re getting 5 minutes of comedy for free, the rest of the small audience do to, and this use of time to develop a rapport pays off throughout.
The theme of the show is simple. The audience vote for which of the performers is to deliver a ‘clean’ set, and which of the performers is to deliver a set of filth. The general warming up presents the audience with a conundrum. Kathryn is clearly the more comfortable with filth, indeed she alludes to it oozing from her pores, and presents visions of a Venom like sentient filth being which is urging to get out of her at any moment. The audience of course vote her ‘clean’, she delivers a set which is mainly focused around the very safe topic of ‘emotional assistance dogs’ and manages to accidentally throw in allusions to yeast, hard drugs, prescription abuse and shotgun weddings. It is all expertly performed, even if the audience is aware that she is playing Laurel to Ollies impending horny Hardy. She throws in some very neatly observed material on the duality of stand-up performers in general however, and this is where this 2-hander is elevated beyond some of its peers whereupon inferior shows feel like marriages of convenience, rather than genuine comedic partnerships. Henson pulls out a wonderful soliloquy early in the show where the ‘shadow self’ of the stand up performer is presented. This is a necessary breaking of the third wall to allow Ollie to really show off his filth chops when he takes to the stage.
Ollie is a big lad. He has presence, he also has a remarkably delicate touch when it comes to leaping onto stage shouting incoherent obscenities to clarify for us that we are now on the dark side of the show. As with the other male comedians I saw today, he managed to both celebrate, and mock, masculinity in a manner which pleased every corner of the room. This is true spirit of the Fringe stuff. Notebook in hand, we receive blow by blow accounts of this young, and apparently very virile, mans Casanovian escapades in such a warm fashion that when it comes to the big final punchline of the set, we already know that the laugh is going to be on him. We have been warmed to this by anecdotes of accidentally scatological massages & Newtonian physics as a self-confidence tool for gents of the larger persuasion during intimate moments. This is stuff which is simultaneously surreal in a Pyncheon-esque manner, and crowd pleasing.
The combination of the 2 back-to-back is akin to in seeing Henson attempt to deliver a clean act by wrestling with her own potty-mouthed Mr Hyde, and thus allowing the audience to make all manner of dirty jokes in their own head, & the filth act delivering obscenities with the gusto of a Mormon recalcitrant in the manner of a priapic Frankenstein’s Monster tearing down its masters laboratory.
This is a show which they would like the audience reviewers to describe as ‘The best show at the Fringe’, to allow them to afford a better venue next year. I urge you to see them, but I really can’t imagine how any venue could better frame this slick, confident, intimate hour of pretty much non-stop laughs. A Free Fringe show which delivers the atmosphere of The Stand on a Friday night, to an audience of 10 is a marvellous thing. It is, if not necessarily ‘the greatest show at The Fringe,’ not very far off. It’s charm very much comes from the fact that you are having the privilege of seeing 2 headline acts for one, in a killer partnership with new material every day, in a genuinely comedy club atmosphere.