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Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2008
The funniest show you'll see this year... that's about nude models... probably. Unless there's another show about nude models on. We don't know, we haven't seen the brochure yet. So, this may or may not be really innovative comedy, but it'll definitely be in or around the funniest show you'll see this year about nude models... maybe.
Any fellas drawn to this by the tantalising prospect of a glimpse of naked female flesh will be sorely disappointed. Nude focuses on the thoughts of two artist’s life models and you certainly get much more than just a glimpse of their naked flesh – and it’s quite evident that they are both male.
One, Owen Roberts, is a first-timer who stands trembling in his dressing gown staring at the assembled artists with wild-eyed fear, while Ciaran Dowd is seasoned, assured and cocky (sorry…). The pair are supervised by the worst art tutor a model could wish for - bullying, unsympathetic and bandanaed. There wasn’t even a cup of tea for either chap; someone should contact the union.
The vast majority of the dialogue comes in the form of pre-recorded inner monologues that are more Peep Show than James Joyce, though there are a couple of lovely moments where thought patterns are accurately emulated. Owen interrupts an irrelevant train of thought with, ‘what was I thinking of?’ only to return to a previous, equally irrelevant, one.
There’s nothing particularly clever about the humour here, the laughs are simple though giggle worthy. Most people find the concept of life modelling amusing (take it from someone who, alongside writing about comedy, does the job on a regular basis) and this play exploits the obvious humour of nudity.
Having found a knot in the tie of his dressing gown, novice Owen attempts to remove the garment over his head and inevitably becomes stuck with his bottom half swaying in the breeze for us all to check out. ‘I’m stuck with my cock out,’ exclaims his inner voice - it’s an uncomplicated but ridiculous image.
Likewise, the show ends nicely on some ludicrous two-hander poses as the mental rivalry between models spills out into a physical wrestling match.
Elsewhere, however, the humour verges on the juvenile and lazy as Owen declares, for no apparent reason, that he doesn’t like the French, comments that the Little Mermaid would probably smell a bit fishy and randomly throws out the term ‘cock jockey’ as an insult.
Where Nude succeeds is in the more subtle observations of the job, and I would guess that one or both of the writers/performers has first-hand experience.
There are the pitfalls of insects unconcerned with life model etiquette (‘Is that a bee!?’ cries Ciaran, silently), the troubling concerns of unexpected bodily functions from unwanted erections to suddenly needing the toilet and the kind of random thoughts that wander through your mind while performing this job, which leads us to a deconstruction of Kelis’s Milkshake or an earnest appraisal of which is the hottest Disney character.
After asking how you can sit naked in a roomful of strangers, the second most asked question of an artist’s model is ‘what do you think about?’ There’s your answer.
There’s also a nice idea in throwing back and subverting the gaze of the crowd of artists. Both models, when they’re not perving at a girl in the front row, are looking right at people and mentally insulting them. From a headlock he’s trapped in at the end Owen ponders: ‘What am I doing with my life, being drawn by a bunch of twats?’
Reviewed by: Marissa Burgess
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