Hans Teeuwen at the 2009 Brighton Comedy Festival

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

When Hans Teeuwen played the Greenwich Comedy Festival last month, he was drowned out by a chorus of boos from the half of the audience who clearly didn't know how to take him.

It's no surprise that the strange Dutchman is not for everyone, as he steadfastly refuses to play by the accepted rules of comedy. But in tearing up the conventions he has produced an act that is not only wonderfully, surprising unique – but also often hilariously silly. With the Brighton Comedy Festival crowd who had come specifically to see him, his absurd, twisted clowning went down a deserved storm.

As a performer, he throws everything into the mix. One minute he writhes around the floor, striking awkwardly contorted poses, as he tells us of the exploits of Dr Hemmington; the next he’s belting out a deliciously crude song with the passion and pace of a piano maestro, bashing so furiously at the keys it’s a surprise it comes out tuneful. Even his hand puppetry is infused with pathos and personality… and that’s without the advantage of any actual puppets, just his bare hands.

All these talents are put to hugely effective use to manipulate the audience, then mess with their expectations. Rare is the comic who uses set pieces, but can still leaves observers entirely unsure what’s going to happen next, but there’s a real frisson of unpredictability throughout his hour-long set.

Neither does the spritely Teeuwen rely on irresistibly maniacal performance alone. His writing flits between the sharp surrealism of his invented fairytales to the bite of evangelical atheism, childishly mocking belief and teasing the arbitrary tensions between faiths. If he did believe in God, he’d have made a great preacher – so it’s to comedy’s gain that he’s such a heathen.

Sometimes he willfully tests the audience’s patience with shaggy dog stories that are designed to annoy as much as amuse, but they make sense in the context of his perpetual mischief-making. He’s not as self-indulgent as he’s previously been in the department, though, and the yarns often build to extravagantly immoral ends – such as the unforgettably disturbing conversation with his mother.

Teeuwen’s in a world – and a class – of his own. Bloody weird but bloody funny, his affected madness is a distinctive delight.

Review date: 11 Oct 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Dome

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