Dalton Trumbo's Reluctant Cabaret
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Between 2001 and 2005, David Reed performed with Edinburgh based improv troupe The Improverts, where he met fellow performers Humphrey Ker and Thom Tuck. In 2006 they formed The Penny Dreadfuls sketch group, who performed regularly on the Fringe and recorded the BBC Radio 7 series The Brothers Faversham, which was repeated on Radio 4, and the two Radio 4 afternoon plays Guy and Revolution.
In 2011 he made his solo Edinburgh festival debut with the show Shamblehouse. He is also the drummer for Karaoke Circus, a show where comedians perform songs with an accompanying live band
David Reed: Shamblehouse
David Reed's Shamblehouse is made up of a series of sharply-written character pieces performed with the skill you might expect from a former member of The Penny Dreadfuls.
The show opens and closes with Steve, a vaguely Hispanic character with a penchant for world-weary philosophical musings. He proves to be one of the show's strongest suits – one of Shamblehouse's highlights comes when Steve re-emerges at the midway point to introduce us to Milo the doughnut. What followed was an inspired piece of surreal comedy that thoroughly engaged a packed house.
Not all of Reed's characters were as successful as Steve, but they each captured the audience's imagination to some extent and Reed was beautifully in command throughout. This extended to a willingness to eschew laughter in favour of poignancy during a piece which felt like a scene from the League Of Gentleman penned by Alan Bennett.
The protagonist tells the audience how he was enticed into performing an immoral act in exchange for a large amount of cash. The darkness of the humour put the laughter on hold as the audience collectively held their breath for the denouement. Many comedians would worry about an extended sequence without laughter, but Reed knew exactly what he was doing and he appeared confident in his ability to control the audience's response: he knew the laughter would return when he willed it.
Other pieces gave Reed the opportunity to show off his versatility. In the second sketch, he gives voice to a schoolboy who has managed to combine his love of Vikings and his love of science-fiction in a story he's written in which the two genres are cunningly interwoven. The tale requires audience participation giving Reed the chance to show that he's capable of being playful within his tightly-written script. Not only did he cajole amusing contributions from the crowd, he managed to incorporate the extraordinary noise made by a military jet as it made its way towards the Tattoo at the Edinburgh Castle.
A further opportunity to toy with the crowd came during the sketch in which Reed took on the role of a South African entrepreneur convinced of his own genius. In particular, this character feels able to enhance any existing idea and the audience is invited to offer suggestions so he can demonstrate his ability to improve them. It wasn't clear whether a couple of moments of hesitation when responding belonged to Reed or to his character, but they provided the only moments when the comedian didn't seem to be in complete control of the show.
A different skill is demonstrated when Reed has a conversation with another version of himself in a partially pre-recorded sequence. 'Other Dave' is at a party in Hollywood where he's run into celebrities whom David Reed has claimed to be able to impersonate. It's a supremely silly sketch which provoked much laughter as Reed's plight became ever more ridiculous.
This show is highly ambitious and it requires considerable skill to prevent it from choking on its own cleverness but Reed's likeability doesn't merely prevent this from happening, it makes it a highly memorable and enjoyable Fringe offering.
|Date of live review: Thursday 11th Aug, '11|
Review by Jason Stone
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2008 -
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2007 -
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2006 -
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David Reed: Shamblehouse