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Pappy's Fun Club: 200 Sketches In An Hour – Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Second only to We Are Klang in keeping the joyous ‘gang show’ spirit alive, the lovably daft Pappy’s Fun Club have been promoted to the biggest venue in the Pleasance Courtyard on the back of last year’s if.comedy nomination. But a sign declaring their name is the only concession to scale: their flimsy props are still made out of cardboard, the costumes cobbled together from anything they could salvage from the Woolworths closing-down sale, and their cheesy puns cheap as Primark.

They haven’t even invested in any amplification – which is possibly their only mistake. This sort of full-on Knockabout madness requires the energetic performers to push the insanity at the audience hard, and the volume at the back of the bleachers just isn’t enough to overwhelm.

But perhaps microphones would have got in the way of their costume changes. Members of the lively quartet are always running on and off stage to slip into something not entirely convincing. This year we are introduced to Dee, a T-Rex whose tiny arms prove a hindrance when it comes to joining in the fun, Robert Wadlow, the world’s tallest man aggressively dissing his No 2 rival, and the villainous Terry Quaker, who combines religious fervour with an unnatural love of oats.

They all detract our heroic quarter from their world record attempt to perform 200 sketches in 60 minutes. ‘With the emphasis very much on attempt,’ the troupe’s nominal leader, Matthew Crosby announces at the start.

His flimsy authority is forever being undermined by the daft clowning of the others, especially the wide-eyed ursine buffoon Tom Parry. But neither these two nor their comrades in comedy Ben Clark and Brendan Dodds have strictly defined roles, all will don whatever ridiculous costume is needed to get a laugh in this broad pantomime for adults.

There’s a generous spirit that pervades it all – a couple of incidental swears aside, this could almost be top-end kids’ entertainment, even if most the references would sail over their heads. This is not the only show this Fringe to feature an Anne Frank joke, for example: but while most try to be edgy and provocative, Pappy’s is all daft.

Even a tirade of cracker-quality jokes, which borders on the awful, is made fun by a relentlessly silly delivery that should delight Tim Vine fans, while their sombre reading of those who lost their lives in the great deed poll office fire, before they had a chance to change their names, is an absurd delight.

The verbal humour is matched by the visual, not just in the preposterous costumes. A scene in which two old men play each other like Stylophones could have come from the golden age of slapstick.

Pappy’s throw a lot into this show – not least their high-spirited energy – producing an entertainment that is serious danger of giving ‘zany’ a good name.

Review date: 20 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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