Fordham and Lipson: He Barks She Bites
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
Fresh from their sell out run at the Soho Theatre, experienced TV, radio and live comedy performers Philippa Fordham and Simon Lipson play an array of diverse and extraordinary characters in a panoply of sketches - some dark, some slightly strange and some just plain silly.
Contrary to the edgy promises made by their show’s title, this male/female duo deliver a series of uninspired sketches that are both frustratingly bland and entirely forgettable.
Fordham and Lipson specialise in constructing everyday situations before their audience, only to destroy any sense of normality. This is generally achieved by either introducing a quirky character or, perhaps more commonly, a quirky character trait that was initially invisible in the set-up. Therefore, their situations can occur in a doctor’s office, a hotel or perhaps even a strip club interview – places of relative normality ready to be subverted.
This initially is a surprise for the audience. But because the sketches are one-dimensional, revolving solely around this one element, it very quickly becomes possible to map out the entire sketch. To name just one example: when a male character picks up a guitar and starts singing the first part of a duet, it is immediately obvious that his partner’s singing voice will be appalling bad. It could be a funny portion of a larger sketch, but when it is the whole of a segment’s purpose, it feels underdone.
There are still some moments to be admired, however. In a kidnapping sketch, the police officer’s impression on the phone is a marvellous piece of offbeat comic writing. It is pleasing to see the duo then take this particular sketch in a completely different, unexpected direction. Here, rather than driving through silence towards one single comedy characteristic, they give the sketch a life of its own which encompasses several amusing high points.
This combination of offbeat comedy and extended, thoughtful writing makes it easily the strongest sketch in the pack, and hopefully a template for things to come.
But almost nothing else matches up to this high-water mark and the show has nothing unique by which to define itself.