Good Lord! It's Raymond & Mr Timpkins Revue And Friends

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

The Raymond & Mr Timpkins Revue are not the obvious choice to host a gig. For starters, they usually don’t even speak during their sets, which would make introducing other comedians something of a challenge.

But one of them – I’m not sure which is Raymond and which is Mr Timpkins – did break their silence for this collection of quirky oddballs which they gathered for a run of Brighton Fringe gigs, a different line-up each night.

There is, however, another drawback with their hosting. Their usual vaudevillian act is a relentless onslaught of stupidity, and to break it into bite-sized segments to fit between the guests robs it of that essence, breaking apart that all-encompassing universe of the ridiculous just as soon as they’ve created it.

They have built an unlikely career out of enacting, very literally, the lyrics of songs. For example, one will scour the stage in search of something, only to find a card with ‘Love’ written on it, whereupon he appears confused as to what to do next. All this is carefully timed to coincide with the lyrics blasting out: ‘Now that we've found love what are we going to do with it?’

This comedy equivalent of those Dingbat brainteasers from a newspapers puzzle page doesn't sound much of a joke. And it isn't, really, it's the unremitting pace and the childish silliness of it all that gets the laughs. The real gag is that this is the way two grown men - one in stripy tank top and beanie hat, the other in dinner jacket and cycling helmet - are earning a living.

Only the mondegreens - or misheard lyrics - are genuinely funny in themselves. The joy to be had in the rest of their corny and juvenile act - and it is joyous – is in their unselfconscious stupidity. It’s a riot when they are given the chance to build up momentum.

Even interrupted, it retains a lot of its charm, but I'd have still rather them headline than host. Especially as the closing act tonight, prop man George Egg, felt so flat. More on that later....

The show was opened by the unique Chris Luby. Dressed in indeterminate military uniform, his speciality is to re-enact the pomp of Trooping The Colour, the massed bands of the Grenadier Guards and a Spitfire being scrambled for the Battle Of Britain, using his voice alone.

It might be a limited party trick, unlikely to make him star, but it's served him well, as he’s still going strong more than 25 years after he was discovered by the legendary Malcolm Hardee. The ridiculous façade is heightened by Luby's rigid military demeanour and flight-commander moustache. It's an entertaining and very different, variety act perfectly in keeping with tonight's ethos.

He was followed by the impossibly bewitching Lady Carol, the epitome of enigmatic beauty and untouchable grace. She shares some of her tips on etiquette and elegance, safe in the knowledge no amount of advice can make us as glamorous as her.

Her gift to the world of variety is her haunting singing voice. Strumming a cheap ukulele, she infuses Radiohead's Creep and Cab Calloway's Minnie The Moocher with an ethereal quality that will bring you out in goosebumps. Divine.

Next, the only stand-up allowed on the bill, Shelagh Martin – and even then she's far from conventional in her outlook, reacting to the world with a naive bewilderment. Her cock-eyed, but perfectly feasible, logic creates some wonderfully eccentric one-liners, which she delivers with deliberately faltering deadpan, umming and aahing her way through stilted sentences. That low-energy approach does lack oomph, but the gags are, for the most part, strong enough to stand alone.

The more extended, more surreal, trains of thought don't have quite the same touch of warped genius as the most succinct of her imaginative lines, but even they remain whimsically endearing.

Headliner Egg attempts the cheesy bad magician shtick - but it's fair to say he’s no Tommy Cooper. On paper, his ham-fisted tricks, stupid props and faux bonhomie could have the same daft appeal as tonight’s hosts, but it seems much more forced. He has the air not of a silly entertainer having some frivolous fun, but the rather-too-desperate-to-please office joker trying every trick in the book to get attention.

Yet the act seems strangely sluggish, lacking the effortless pizzazz needed to sell this sort of cheesy, zany fare. There are a couple of successful slick tricks, and the odd strong sight gag, but we’re dangerously close to children’s party entertainment here.

Review date: 26 May 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Hove Fletch at St Andrews

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