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Sam Simmons: Problems - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

There’s not a lot of space to breathe in Sam Simmons’ relentless onslaught of surrealism. To a continuous soundtrack, he unleashes a volley of non-sequiturs, daft drawings and micro-sketches that leaves you almost punch-drunk on weirdness.

After this fast-talking Australian absurdist runs down his entire life story in three minutes, he embarks on the tale of how he got trapped down the back of a sofa, with only Lego men, pens and loose change for company. There is a narrative of sorts here, though you may be hard-pressed to keep up with it, as there’s so much going on.

Amid all the nonsense, you can make out nuggets of jokes and snatches of what might be longer stand-up routines, but exaggerating the artform’s shortcomings and ridiculing desperation of those who practise it. It’s clear he has little time for comics going for kneejerk edgy or forced anger: ‘Basil?’ he splutters. ‘That can fuck right off.’

There’s smart stuff behind this… though equally it might just be that he’s stuck a plastic fish full of soy sauce to the A2 flipchart which provides a constantly-changing visual aid throughout the madness, treating us to such marker-pen masterpieces as the subliminal cat or a turd rolled in glitter, his allegory for the world of showbusiness.

Some of this – disco bread shoes, anyone – is reminiscent of Reeves and Mortimer at their most lunatic. But he doesn’t humanise it much; he just ploughs through it with, for the most part, little connection to the audience.

He breaks the fourth wall a couple of times, sometimes when the particularly sulky radio mic starts to heckle him, or to comment that this is no way for a 32-year-old man to behave, but they come some way in. A couple more knowing winks to the audience would soften the intensity of bizarreness washing over them, and showcase Simmons’s brilliantly offbeat ideas to their best advantage.

Review date: 23 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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