August 14, 2007

Show and Tell

Preston Reed. This was my first music show this year, and it was okay. Reed is about eleven feet tall and stoops on stage, alone but for a number of guitars. He's clearly good at what he does, and the calm dynamism he shows in his quickfire guitar/percussion bits (eg. Rainmaker) is certainly impressive to watch. But he exudes a reclusive "me and my guitars" attitude onstage that drains the show's charisma, and it was subsequently lacking in any of those wow moments that a good live show really has to have. Three pundigrions.

Scared Scriptless. The Underbelly has never had much improv in its program, so it was with some excitement that I read the blurb for this show, which promises an improvised horror movie based on audience suggestions; it sounded like a really neat format for combining some of the storytelling possibilities of longform improv with the satirical potential inherent in genre-riffing shortform. But...

It wasn't really an improvised horror movie at all. All they did was stitch a handful of shortform games on to an opening soap opera freeze designed to develop the characters, and lost the horror movie pretty swiftly. Sure, the games were all loosely focused around the horror theme, but the end result (a manip where the monster had to guess his motivation through a discussion with his therapist; a two-headed interview with an expert on monsters; etc.) lost the initial plot completely and ended up more like an improvised meta-commentary on the unconvincing horror movie they had set up.

I don't mean to malign their ability as improvisers. They had a lot of nice character work and a great energy, and if they had just done a straightforward shortform show I think they would have pulled it off with aplomb. But there were too many listening problems and way too much audience control (the audience got to call "should've said" repeatedly, the audience got to decide who died and in what order, etc.) for the performers to maintain a coherent longform story, especially one with as many expectations as a horror movie spoof. Two pundigrions.

Reginald D. Hunter. Reg has long been one of the sell-out names at the Underbelly, but in past years I've avoided seeing his shows because they've had titles like "A Mystery Wrapped in a Nigga", and "Pride, Prejudice and Niggers", which frankly seemed like gratuitously adding profanity to a title just to draw a crowd, and isn't generally the sort of thing I enjoy. (This year his show is called "Fuck You in the Age of Consequence"; in his words, "Age of Consequence because I want to talk about consequences, and Fuck You to make it sound edgier.")

In the end he was pretty funny, and I laughed uncontrollably at several points. But overall it was just stand-up, and fairly unmemorable. Not bad, by any means, just nothing special. Three and a half pundigrions.

Dan Clark and Friends. Dan Clark is a stand-up/musician and this show was conceived, apparently, to allow him the opportunity to jam with some of the Fringe's other great musical comedians. And, man, what a great idea! He played some great material with some fantastic acts, and a good time was had by all – even though the show was running about an hour late, had a persistent buzz coming off the guitar pick-ups for the second half, and went on until 3am on a weeknight.

The acts were, in order, God's Pottery (a comedy duo posing as an American Christian folk group), Reggie Watts (a human beatbox/comedian/headcase), Ginger and Black (a straightforward musical comedy duo) and Priorité a Gauche, my favourite act of Fringe 2005 (they're an Englishman/Irishman duo who play a French pop group). All were incredible, especially Ginger and Black (who I'd never heard of before), who had an amazing chemistry onstage and mind-bogglingly perfect comic timing. Reggie seemed to have mainstreamed it up for the occasion (normally his act is pretty weird, but he was doing pretty plain vanilla drunken crowd gagging) but it still worked well, which was nice to see. Five pundigrions.


Anonymous said...

good sir, consider yourself flagged by the Iranian goverment.

(maryam :o))

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear that-- all of Andrew's self-censorship has gone completely to waste.

So, who do you think is more awesome, the Shah or Salman Rushdie?


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