Absolutely Presents John Sparkes and Pete Baikie

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

The second show from part of the team responsible for the late, great Absolutely sketch show (we reviewed Frank Hovis’s Filth right at the start of the festival) is billed as a Variety Sandwich – an affectionate tribute to the eccentric comics of bygone days.

John Sparkes and Peter Baike portray a parade of warped, failed, amateurish characters in that music hall spirit. There is, fans from their earlier work will be pleased to know, a revival of miserable Welsh performance poet Siadwel, with his wonderfully abrupt comic verses, and Owen Bongo, the dreadful ventriloquist with a brick for a dummy.

Both those are Sparkes, while Baike portrays an erudite dressing-gowned Noel Coward type, though much more sleazy, parodying the now twee lyrics of those oh-so clever songs of the age. Elsewhere, he’s a Russian musician who crafts a homemade guitar from an old petrol can - successfully.

The pair have more cheese than Kraft, making for a real love-it-or-hate-it act. If you think calling a Welsh stuntman Dai Hard is the height of stupid hilarity, you’ll love it. If you think it’s juvenile nonsense, well it’s that too – and proud of it.

But whatever your opinion on the purposefully tacky live sketches, the filmed inserts are sublime. While many Fringe shows use such technology as padding, here it’s the best part of the show.

What the pair have done is compile delightfully bizarre archive footage into hilarious montages, supposedly of speciality or animal acts from a more innocent age, linked with ridiculous voiceover and held together with out-of-context vox pops.

The skill with which they’ve spliced together the clips – and the research that must have gone into sourcing them – is truly impressive and works to terrific comic effect. There is, clearly, a spoof TV programme to be made from these alone, and it’s surely been pitched already.

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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