Penny Spubb's Party

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

At its best, the Fringe is a nursery for original ideas, and this quirky, distinctive show is a perfect example of the new strains of comedy fruit that can be created when comics grasp the opportunity with both hands.

Anna Crilly and Katy Wix are two emerging stand-ups, each with a likeable set of off-kilter material, but for Edinburgh they’ve combined those talents to produce that rarity: something that seems genuinely fresh and original.

As with anything out of the ordinary, it takes a while to comprehend and appreciate. Also it isn’t perfectly funny, rather a slightly unstable prototype that this hugely imaginative pair can build on and improve. But for sheer, dazzling novelty, they deserve much acclaim.

The joy of this is hard to encapsulate. They put on silly accents, they stomp around the stage acting badly, they’ve got surreal ideas they see through with conviction and there are long awkward silences and embarrassed pauses as the script apparently teeters on the brink of collapse. All this is true, but Penny Spubb’s Party   offers so much more than this.

One trick they have is to deliberately mess with the intonation and stress of their words, giving their menagerie of characters from the gay sheriff to their message-based performance artists an unsettling otherworldliness. Their choice of vocabulary is odd, stilted and sometimes just wrong, too, adding to that distant feeling.

There are a few wonderful jokes, of sorts, in it, and to be honest a few more wouldn’t go amis, but it’s more about non-sequiteurs and awkward moments of bemusement than anything else. Penny Spubb is having a party amid all of this, and it’s the most melancholy event you’ll witness. When they can bring a touch of pathos to the Birdie Song, you know it’s something special.

It is, for the most part, pretty funny. I’m smiling just reading back over my apparently meaningless notes from the show: Mad About Measuring;  Friendship Not Prejudjuice; Wake Up Carol, I’m Lonely; What Know You Of Topworld? It’s not that these moments elicited uncontrollable guffaws at the time,  but they have lodged in the mind, so wonderfully distinctive are they, and the mental replay is as funny as the first time, possibly more so.

This is a show likely to be enhanced by repeated viewing, as you become more immersed in the rhythm and the atmosphere of the piece, to enjoy it all the more. A cult has been born here – sign up now.

Review date: 1 Jan 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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