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Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2003
Whatever Happened To White Dog Shit?
With the Festival Fringe now saturated with comedy, what could be more appropriate than a play dealing with the subject of comedy itself?
Whenever a dramatist creates a comedian, they are invariably a screwed-up, crying-on-the-inside, maladjusted misfit.
Granted, a well-balanced professional doing their job well wouldn't be that interesting, but some new psychological flaws would be nice.
The two wannabe comics attending the comedy course at the Brahms and Liszt pub in this play are no exception to the rule - they were hated at school, come from broken homes and feel isolated and depressed, seeing stand-up as their only way out.
They are tutored by old-timer Vince 'The Filthy Habit' Monk, an established alternative comic in the vein of Arthur Smith, from whom playwright Paul Magson stole the title.
But this is a very odd comedy course indeed, as the students learn nothing about their craft, instead spending the time navelgazing about their miserable backgrounds and examining the psychology of laughter.
"The arena for the controlled release of threatening thoughts is humour," they learn. "Humour has the power to mitigate unpleasant emotional states."
That's all well and good, but it won't teach you how to deliver a knob gag to the late crowd at the Comedy Store.
But then Magson has that other common failing of the playwright - the inability to write stand-up. Well, it is difficult, and can only be honed in front of live audiences, rather than created on the word processor like the rest of the script, which is why it never sounds quite right,
But Whatever Happened To White Dog Shit isn't really about comedy, it's about well, it's not entirely clear.
The protagonists chat about their upbringing, and slowly, by a number of exceedingly convenient and unlikely coincidences, we find out their lives are all linked. And, err, that's it. There's a bit of a theme about feeling the need to belong to a group, but that's subsidiary.
Although stereotyped to a certain extent, the characters are all well drawn and more than competently acted, by Magdon in the role of student Dom Jones and poet Robin Bailey as the tutor. And Susie Riddell (who was the young Kate Aldridge in The Archers) gets the chance to show off the greatest range as Amber Leif, a task she's easily up to.
But overall, this is an unsatisfying affair, diverting enough but all-too-forgettable, as it ultimately has nothing to say.
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