Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre
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I live alone...
From the BBC Four recording of Numb
More Simon Amstell videos
|I live alone...|
|Scene from Grandma's House|
‘I lost my job because of the publicity,’ Chris Langham complains, as he discusses his links to a heinous crime that had him vilified in the newspapers.
Only it’s not Langham speaking as himself, but his character in the new British indie film Black Pond, Tom Thompson.
This is, as is now well known, his first acting job since he was jailed for downloading child pornography, bringing this jet-black comedy-drama column inches its miniscule budget could never usually hope to attain while testing to breaking point the maxim ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’.
Certainly large proportions of the press – and the potential audience – will never forgive Langham, nor believe his ‘Townsend defence’ that he was researching a part and therefore only monumentally stupid, not monumentally vile.
Even though Langham is sympathetic, if far from loveable, in his tentative comeback, there is certainly an elephant in the cinema as you watch him. As the absorbing story unfolds, you do forget the actor’s past, but occasionally something will snap you back, such as a particular line, or a creepy scene when a character – not his – is caught leafing through children’s pictures in a family album.
If you can put Langham’s past behind you – admittedly a big ‘if’ - Black Pond shows the formidable, but understated, acting talents. His character is a relatively successful, but rather joyless, professional man in late middle age, whose marriage to Sophie (a similarly restrained Amanda Hadingue) has long lost its romantic spark and whose relationship with his student daughters could best be described as awkward.
Out walking his dog, Boy, near the woods near his house one day, Thompson chances upon Blake, a slightly odd creature Thompson is convinced is ‘care in the community’. But he appears benign, just a lost, disconnected soul. The pair strike up a conversation, possibly the first time Thompson has had affinity to another human being in years, which ends in Blake coming to the family home for the evening. This is the catalyst for a thaw in the marital frostiness, although it’s only a temporary one.
It’s no spoiler to reveal that Blake dies at the Thompson home, as that is the hook for the whole film, but debut directors Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe have a morbid fun in teasing how this actually plays out. They tell the story through a combination of ‘real time’ scenes and flash forward interviews in which the characters explain what happened that fateful night, and the consequences it had.
As Blake, Colin Hurley is a particular revelation, even outshining Langham. It might just be the beard, but he’s vaguely reminiscent of The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis, a sort of bewildered idiot savant in a world of his own who doesn’t quite realise the consequences of his actions.
The film’s other notable feature is that it’s the big-screen debut of Simon Amstell. His role is relatively brief, but memorable, offering a more flamboyant comedy to contrast with the dry-as-dust dark wit of the central storyline. He plays a therapist, unqualified, whose methods largely involve brutally mocking the insecurities of his clients. It’s not such a huge leap from the acerbic tone of his stint as Never Mind The Buzzcocks host, mixed with some of the nihilism that defines of his stand-up.
There’s also another subplot involving the Thompsons’ daughters and their relationship with family friend Tim, but that is notably less successful.
The film was shot for an incredibly tight £25,000 -– yet it looks like one with a budget ten, if not a hundred, times larger. As well as the main plot, Cambridge Footlights alumni Kingsley and Sharpe are big on imaginative, brooding shots to set the scene and there’s a kooky stop-motion dream sequence midway through that’s quite delightful.
They don’t quite get the pacing right all the time, and the film could probably do with a 15-minute shave, but it’s a fascintating portrait of a dysfunctional family, told with wit that’s so dry it’s initially barely perceptible, but slowly comes to the fore.
Whatever Black Pond’s minor flaws, Kingsley and Sharpe have certainly created an impressive calling card, sure to bring them more work in the future. Whether the same can be said of Langham, despite his impressive performance, will remain in the hands of others.
Black Pond was shown as part of the Raindance Film Festival in London, and will be on wider release next month.
|Date of live review: Tuesday 4th Oct, '11|
Review by Steve Bennett
Thursday 7th Mar, '13- Wembley Arena
Sunday 15th Apr, '12- Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Tuesday 13th Oct, '09- Brighton Dome
Monday 27th Jul, '09-
Monday 1st Oct, '07-
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2007 -
Show - Misc live shows -
Show - Misc live shows -
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2006 -
Show - Misc live shows -
Unfunny and painful to watch. Dreary voice, no stage presence and always looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Funeral director would be more fitting job for this boy.
Loved it, made me have little laughs and big laughs and giggles and smiles.
Ignore the critical comments here, especially Andrea's most recent one. I saw Simon, both at Hammersmith and his preview show. This is brilliant comedy. He's the best, most intelligent stand-up around - better than Eddie Izzard. As for some of the, frankly, homophobic comments - Simon's references to his sexuality are always within the context of self-deprecating lines about his isolation. He happens to be gay. It's not explicit - far less so than Russell Howard's needless boasting - but an honest reflection on his relationships. If people can't deal with that I suggest you join the children's comic who hopefully also won't tax you with reflections on notions of identity, Buddhist philosophy and nihilism.
Saw him at nottingham on saturday night. He wasn't as funny as I'd anticipated. the funniest bits were when he interacted with the audience - in particular the miserable bloke at the front! We know you're gay Simon but we don't need to hear all the intimate details, leave that to Graham Norton or Julian Clary.
Saw him in Bristol last night. His support act took time to warm up but got there eventually. As far as Simons act is concerned I loved it - as did the audience. He was very witty and philosophical about life, sexuality and love. His act was very funny and at times he had the audience in hysterics. If you want quick fire kn*b jokes then go and see Jimmy Carr, Simon is about wit and proved to be a very entertaining gig.
First time the audience was funnier than the act. Poor first act and Simon spun out a 10 minute joke last an hour.
Did not now what to expect from Simon Amstell stand up show Do Nothing. I bought tickets as a last minute present for my better half. I thought at first £20 was quite high but the show was worth every penny and more. I have not laughed so hard this year. Earlier this year I saw Michael McIntyre and thought that Simon Amstell was funnier by miles. St Davids Hall was also a fantastic venue as you could see and hear Simon very well. Would recommend to any age/sex etc to see Simon Amstell's Do nothing... So funny!
Very short. I felt really cheated - was it the interval or is it really the end? Well it was the end! Really poor value for money-he was quite funny in parts but not as good as i hoped and not worth £20
Simon Amstell: Numb Live
Grandma's House: Series 2
Simon Amstell: Do Nothing Live
Grandma's House: Series 1
Best of Never Mind The Buzzcocks
Simon Amstell: The Last Minute Alternative
Edinburgh Fringe 2006
Edinburgh Fringe 2007
Simon Amstell: No Self
Stand Up For Animals
Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Simon Amstell: Do Nothing
Stand Up For Freedom 
Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Simon Amstell: Numb
Misc live shows
A Seriously Funny Attempt To Get The SFO in The Dock
Brighton Comedy Festival: Best Of The Fest
Simon Amstell: Montreal 2009
Simon Amstell 2008 tour