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Colin Hoult's Carnival of Monsters - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

The title Carnival Of Monsters will inevitably invoke memories of the League Of Gentlemen, and thankfully Colin Hoult bears up well to the comparison.

He certainly shares the quartet’s strange, gothic sensibilities, but beyond the macabre freak show that provides a through-line for his collection of comedy sketches and theatrical vignettes, there’s a genuine playful glee at wrong-footing the audience.

Never apologise, never explain is one character’s catchphrase, and the advice is well-taken here. The best scenes are not those of brooding menace, but those that revel in big, exuberant gestures done for no rhyme or reason.

The hoodie-wearing crow who zips around on a toy tricycle, for instance, is tear-inducingly funny, not just for the obviously ridiculous image he portrays but also for the audacity of what Hoult does with it. Len Parker, an East Midlands Transformers addict turned karate devotee is skilfully undermined, while Anna Mann, a grande dame of the theatre is a merciless send-up of luvvie pretentiousness – an easy and familiar target, you might think, but Hoult’s semi-affectionate characterisation makes it fresh.

Although billed as a solo show following his work as one half – guess which? - of Colin and Fergus, Hoult is supported by Zoe Gardner, Stephen Evans and Dan Snelgrove who often have little to do but look menacing in white kabuki masks, but whose mere existence adds the potential for the unexpected.

There are jokes in it, though – this isn’t all about big performances. Nor is the show always funny, as Hoult occasionally pauses for a brief tale of the unexplained, making for an unusually theatrical hour. Rarely has the ghastly been this much fun.

Review date: 14 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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