The Friday Night Experience | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Invisible Dot, London

The Friday Night Experience

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Invisible Dot, London

The Friday Night Experience, a new format being trialled by new-wave London producers The Invisible Dot, is an engagingly slapdash mix of gameshow, sketch performance and stand-up that’s essentially a showcase of audience participation. It’s anarchic, but to a point.

Games master Luke McQueen relishes the cruelty of putting punters on the spot and has devised some inventive set pieces to test their mettle. The tone is set right from the opening game in which a phone rings on the empty stage until someone from the audience decides to answer it. The resulting predicament is basically a comedy version of Saw.

McQueen allows his victims the space to be funny, but slaps them down if they’re not – a necessity for a couple of the more extrovert volunteers tonight, and he generally keeps the nonsense within parameters. The show is about getting the audience to do ‘as much as we can bully you into,’ he gleefully confesses. But not too much.

There’s a jarring change of tone when it moves away from the twisted gameshow, as deadpan comic David Elms found to his cost. An audience encouraged to get involved because it’s all about them won’t easily change gear to be passive observers to subtle, low-key stand-up.

Yet those acts who embrace the unpredictable edges of using crowd volunteers thrive. First guest Joseph Morpurgo was perfectly in tune with the vibe of the night; his creepily odd piano teacher – inspired by a real, naff LP of the 1970s – playfully stitched up his ‘pupil’ as he served up a delightfully absurd melody of malapropisms, non-sequiturs and witty analogy.

He returned immediately for a rap-battle sketch with Elms, subverting the usual volley of insults for polite flattery – ‘Yo mamma… raised you very well’ – before the stumbling segue into Elms’s own stand-up, modestly delightful but a poor fit for this rambunctious night.

Kieran Hodgson’s character pieces didn’t use audience interaction, but held their own through the strength of his creations – initially a posh banter-merchant, delivering an end-of-term speech to the ‘legends’ in his Oxbridge rowing eight, an inbred confidence making him blind to his awfulness. This sort of character’s been done countless times before, but Hodgson’s more subtly appalling version is so accurately observed it can only have come from first-hand experience. A droll West End musical number based on his autobiographical experiences explained more – the cocoa dusting on this delicious upper-middle-class gateau.

The two former Cambridge students who comprise Beard make less of a play of their background, instead presenting a quirky, clownish offering that has plenty to delight. Assured near-silent scenes involving their chosen punter have something of the sense of play that The Boy With Tape On His Face brings. Rosa Robson displays a dumb naivety (even in a seduction scene) that could make her a Mrs Bean, while Matilda Wnek is entertainingly game during a potentially messy mousse-based scenario. Together they tease out laughs of expectation nicely.

Between these elements, McQueen’s games were hit-and-miss from an anti-Mock-the-Week panel show to an under-subscribed hashtag prank he planned for the interval. But with advisedly limited exposure, these segments can be considered more like tone-setting compering for this talented parade of interactive character comic pieces, rather than the bulk of the show.

Review date: 22 Mar 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: 2 Northdown

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