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Marcello Al Dente Relives A Catastrophic Moment In His Life

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Jason Stone

This show spends much of its time toying with the audience's expectations and, plainly, we're supposed to see through the ruse and realise that we're actually witnessing a substantial piece of comedy. Unfortunately, it's the dampened expectations that prove about right, despite a deceptively confident performance, there's less to this than meets the eye.

Marcello al Dente launches into self-deprecation from the start. His opening gambit as he mounts the stage in a gold lamé jacket is to point out in his fey French accent that the show in the adjacent room is substantially funnier than his. This actually proves to be a handy preemptive strike as quite a lot of audible laughter is generated by the neighbouring act and each time it happens, Al Dente is able to remind the audience that he ‘told them so’.

The opening routine reveals a weakness that permeates the rest of the show.  He snags the sleeve of his jacket and tries to release it without causing damage.  This piece of business requires a highly skilled performance but Al Dente didn't produce it and it just didn't work. This failure to hit the target with physical comedy became a recurring theme as much of this show assumes that Al Dente is much better at this than proves to be the case.

The show's strongest suit is its ambition.  Al Dente frequently went out on a limb in his search for laughs and he often got a good response from a generous Fringe audience.  At no time was the crowd helpless with laughter but they were more than willing to run with his effort to draw them into his surreal conceits and this was largely because of his impressive confidence.

The best sequence came when he enrolled some help from the audience and then left his reluctant participants unsure of how to proceed.  His feigned expectations of them and his mock impatience when they failed to deliver provoked bewilderment from them and laughter from the rest but, once again, the sequence was let down by the weakness of his mime.

There was a secondary entertainment provided by al Dente's producer at the back of the room.  Every time the conversation in the bar behind the curtain rose above a murmur, he popped through to urge quietness. The fact that his constant yo-yoing was a far greater disturbance than the noise from behind couldn't obscure his admirable determination to protect his performer.

The gap between successful and unsuccessful physical comedy can be infuriatingly narrow and there's enough confidence on display here to suggest that Marcello al Dente may be able to bridge it but, on this showing, he has a great deal of work to do if he wants to take the next step.

Review date: 30 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Jason Stone

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