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Foil, Arms And Hog: Strangers With Sweets

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Jason Stone

There's amiability about this Irish trio – but their show would fall well short if this was all they had going for them. Fortunately, they've written some cracking sketches with performances to match. Their casual approach relaxed a full house, and their willingness to banter between sketches kept up this atmosphere throughout.

There were several recurring themes over their 16 sketches: exaggeration was used to good effect to illustrate the frustration of being stopped by charity collectors and in several of the sketches, Irish mothers were mocked for their pessimistic attitude and emotional manipulation.

A cymbal is hit with a hammer to signify the end of each sketch and it would be interesting to know whether this was originally devised to disguise a lack of confidence in their punchlines. If so, the device is no longer necessary as most sketches have strong endings – but the anticipation of the swinging hammer is cleverly incorporated into proceedings from time to time, so providing its own moments of comedy.

The best of the sketches have a surreal aspect. An unexpectedly delightful dance routine emerges when the noises associated with Microsoft Windows escape the boundaries of the computer. It's a highly original conceit and even though the choreography could have been tighter, it was a very funny sequence. On a similar note, we bear witness to the immense frustration of trying to get through to an IT helpdesk with a brilliantly absurd illustration of the lengths necessary to stay on the line when you're waiting for someone to answer the call. In the banter following this sketch, one of the trio admits that they still haven't worked out whether it's racist to impersonate the mumbled voice of a call centre worker in India and the candour of this reflection dilutes any worry that this might be the case. It isn't, by the way.

Best of all is a richly imagined sketch involving a collection of bizarre iPhone apps. The initial fascination of the protagonist rapidly dissolves as his mobile phone's interventions become ever more inappropriate and the payoff is clever and funny.

The finale is exceedingly silly and it's a tribute to the atmosphere they've generated that it prompts so much laughter. If the same routine was attempted in front of an audience less charged with goodwill then it might well fall flat. But, as many performer knows, once you have the audience in the palm of your hand, you can take them anywhere.

Foil Arms and Hog – aka Sean Finegan, Conor Mc Kenna and Sean Flanagan ­– make a virtue of unsophisticated staging and cheap props but it's the writing and the performances that count and these are highly professional despite the lads' best effort to disguise this with their bonhomie.

This is a hugely enjoyable show that deserves capacity audiences throughout the run

Review date: 12 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Jason Stone

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