Alex Horne: Monsieur Butterfly | Review by Steve Bennett
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Alex Horne: Monsieur Butterfly

Review by Steve Bennett

Rube Goldberg machines, Heath Robinson devices, the contraption from the Mousetrap game… call them what you will but the over-complicated apparatus to perform a simple task seem to be back in vogue, starring in pop videos and car adverts.

Now, in what is surely a Fringe first, Alex Horne constructs one live on stage, although he doesn’t really bother to explain what he’s doing until it becomes obvious. And my God is it tense as he delicately balances the components, mostly courtesy of his local Wickes, on their hair triggers. One false move and it’s disaster.… while among the funniest moments is his repeated, accidental bursting of a balloon he’s trying to secure in place.

Seems one thing this device can do brilliantly is build instant empathy with audience and performer (given that Horne was pretty empathetic to begin with). We all share his sense of playful endeavour and we all want it to work, and, yes, some members of the audience are called on to lend a hand, to help achieve that aim, too.

‘Even if you don't like it, you're not going to leave before the end,’ he asserts with the same awareness as when later asks ‘But it is comedy?’. He’s unsure how to categorise what he does any more, this certainly seems more of an ‘occurrence’ than a show.

Yet like the gubbins he’s erecting, the construction is far more intricate than the end result. Many of the components that go into the machine have special meaning to his life, so he’s able to tell us tales as he builds. There’s the bath he bathed in as a baby, a squirrel that once caused him grief, and toys from his son. Fatherhood is a key theme, and you can imagine a future Horne building a Rube Goldberg machine with his son.

There is also a generous handful of solid jokes sprinkled through the hour – including a brilliant visual one that catches everyone unawares – and the more than the odd dash of whimsy, such as imagining his his grave to be a crazy golf hole. Even the eclectic soundtrack provides some wry running gags.

Our emotional investment in the doohickey created is equal to any heartstring-tugging stand-up; so the moment when we see whether it will do its job is a genuine, edge-of-your-seat climax. Full of little surprises, there’s nothing like this on the Fringe – and probably never has been. How often can one truthfully say that, given just how many shows there are?

Review date: 16 Aug 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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