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Daniel Rigby: Mothwokfantastic – Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

With the best comedy, the audience should never quite know what’s around the corner, and sketch comedian and occasional musician Daniel Rigby’s tongue-tyingly-titled debut certainly combines a compellingly disorientating atmosphere with perfectly measured performance and distinguished offbeat writing.

His gift is to be able to give the stupid gravitas; he can gurn away all he likes, throwing out silly voices and quirky gags, yet the veneer of dignity, for the most part, remains. And when it cracks, because he’s making spontaneous quips about the copious amounts of sweat he’s secreting or trying to compel his partner in comedy Julian Stolzenburg to laugh, the effect is so much the greater.

The genesis of some of Rigby’s sketches could come from an automatic generator: who would be the worst person to man a Samaritans-style helpline? What if geriatrics talked in teenager patois? But the joy comes in the way the scenes pan out with unexpected writing and balanced performance.

There’s a strong sense of originality through much of the hour. His football commentator is an inspired creation, while the spoof of patriotic war movies contains some brilliantly inspired use of language.

A couple of scenes do fall disappointingly into the predictable, but only a couple. The childish insults traded across the House of Commons floor is little more than a rip-off of Newman & Baddiel’s History Today, and the spoof adverts from the whisky company supposedly sponsoring the show play out exactly as expected. These sort of audio sketches are usually employed to cover costume or scene changes – but since Rigby and Stolzenburg perform everything in regulation black T-shirt and just a couple of chairs as a set, their inclusion isn’t justified.

Occasionally Rigby will take his place behind the keyboard for a jaunty musical interlude, with his stupidly surreal tale of the worm with aspirations to be an accountant, or his ode to the joys of the outdoors. But, to paraphrase an old gag, a gentleman is someone who can play a twee musical comedy number but chooses not to, and Rigby wisely rations these to only the songs that earn their place in the show.

It’s an hour with a distinctive feel and plenty of wonderfully inspired moments, if in need of some assured editing to match the quality of the writing. It may not be perfect, but with Mothwokfantastic, Daniel Rigby is certainly putting his beachtowel over the sunlounger of comedy, marking out his place for the future.

Review date: 20 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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