Josie Long: All Of The Planet’s Wonders (Shown In Detail)
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2008
This is about the magic of learning and making sense of the world. It’s about the little and big things in life. It covers the stars, wildlife, animals and museums, being inspired by books she has read and people she’s met along the way.
Aspiring polymath Josie Long combines her thirst for knowledge and fondness for enthusiastic amateurism in her third full-length show.
Simultaneously impressed and horrified by the Leicestershire man who made his own, dismally poor-quality museum of agriculture, hated even by his own grandchildren, Long was prompted to examine her own love of collecting both things and information.
To sate the latter desire, she’s also recently taken up amateur astronomy, helping plug the gaps in her scientific knowledge. True to the title, she’s been blown away by the vast wonders of the universe, which prove a recurring theme of the show.
Long’s not afraid to flaunt her learning, nor her sense of whimsy, and the show flits lightly between John Locke, a collection of toy frogs, Hieronymus Bosch, promotional pens, the Enlightenment and Oxford’s Pitt Rivers museum of anthropology. You might sense a certain smugness in her own cleverness, but her uncynical enthusiasm for this eclectic collection of subjects is infectious, and she quietly draws audience to share her passions.
Nailing the jokes, however. proves harder. There are a few exquisite gems of observations in here, keenly forged into quirkily intelligent jokes. These are gags that deserve to be preserved under a glass case in their own museum of whimsical wit.
But equally there are weak puns and routines that are more interesting than funny, that don’t quite hold up to scrutiny. Even so, everything is made enjoyable by Long’s immense warmth.
Her skilful delivery is proved from one of the biggest laughs of the night, which is sparked by nothing more than a slight, silent movement. Long imagines Bosch explaining the bizarre ideas for his latest masterpiece to the burghers of 16th Century Holland, then she slowly, deliberately starts to turn her head, to take on the persona of the man he was talking to. The laugh comes with the anticipation of the response, rippling out around the room.
Behind the agreeably lo-fi approach – complete with hand-drawn programmes and pie charts inexpertly rendered on her flip-chart – lies a much keener comic brain that her outwardly scatty delivery might lead you to believe. However, the sweet charisma is just as likely to gloss over weaknesses in her material as enhance the truly wonderous stuff.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett