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John-Luke Roberts and Nadia Kamil: The Behemoth

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

John-Luke Roberts and Nadia Kamil have never quite cracked the Fringe. They tend to be favourably reviewed, and they certainly have their cheerleaders, but they never quite seem to catch the buzz of being a must-see. Which is a shame, as there’s an impressive display of subversive comic invention in this enjoyably misshapen sketch show.

They are impressive performers, too, able to pull the audience this way and that. Starting with a weird, barked rendition of Stand By Me that just doesn’t know when to stop is a bold move, but they have the confidence to keep on pushing beyond the point when it’s irritating and on to when it’s funny. A similar patience-testing moment comes soon after, with an impressions skit, but again the hypnotic repetition is pulled off.

But in terms of pacing, these are exceptions rather than the rule, as this absurd show – their first following a three-year absence from the festival – generally zips by at quite a lick, with quickfire scenes tumbling over themselves to pump out the silliness.

There’s no defining double-act relationship between them; they simply get on with the business in hand, often displaying a cheeky knowingness, fully acknowledging the mechanics of what they are doing, either in sly asides to the audience or simply through the demeanour they adopt. Yet they main conviction in their odd creations, no matter how silly. It gives their surreal creations such as Party Bee or the Swan Schlong Scone Song a real verve.

Talking belly-buttons, the rivalry between horses and unicorns and an attempt on the world record for stool rodeo, currently held by the Duchess of Cornwall, all form scenes here and, although clearly surreal, Roberts and Kamil play it straight. The result is a mix of the clever and the silly, in the finest tradition of the likes of Vic and Bob.

Some characters make a return, such as Roberts’ Kate Bush or Kamil as the spirit of the shrewish reviewer Anne Bancroft, rating all existence out of five. This comes in a rather clunky bit of narrative to close the show, belatedly falling into the trap of clumsy self-indulgence they had so nimbly sidestepped until that point.

But it’s a rare misstep in an hour of enjoyably daft fun.

Review date: 16 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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