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Paul Foot: Still LIfe

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

It is Paul Foot’s sincere aim to present his ‘most professional show ever’, and despite all chaotic evidence to the contrary, this intensely deranged hour might be just that.

For although this modern-day lord of misrule causes pandemonium wherever he prowls, it turns out that there’s a hidden structure behind every extravagant strangeness, making the show more rewarding than the series of disjointed, manically surreal rants that it might otherwise be.

He is keen to make a good impression. Not only does he want to entertain, but he tells us the venue management have ‘had words’ about his behaviour towards both the audience and their technical staff. Such expectations heap pressure on him to perform… and he’s not so good under pressure.

That’s why he gets a little carried away with the offstage introduction – and even when he finally does emerge from his cubby-hole, it’s not the entrance he’d planned. Never mind, what a perfect excuse for a pre-show run-through to make sure everything will run smoothly once the comedic musings get properly under way…

The gap between his obsessive perfectionism and the reality is where the madness lies. Like Basil Fawlty, Foot’s frustrations with his own flaws fuel his insanity. As he lurches around the auditorium, screeching out his plans, the nervous tension builds up dangerously, occasionally releasing itself with an explosion of windmilling arms, spasming legs and manic head jerks. But still the outspurtings of insanity continue. Even simple instructions as to the level of applause he wants turns into an absurd and lengthy distraction about celebrity animal husbandry.

This wild unpredictability brings a genuine frisson to a large room, released in frequent bursts of incredulous laughter. The fool with the odd hair and odder dress sense is playing us like a maestro.

After the pre-show madness crescendos, he finally takes to the stage to present his comedic bon mots. Not jokes, but ‘glimpses’ – brief, witty scenes, obliquely described, allowing the audience to jump to their own punchlines. Although sometimes, Foot adds explanation to illuminate the way.

Then there’s an interlude from his alter ego Penny, which proves that both sides of Foot’s split personality are equally unhinged; while an audience game with a horse’s head on a stick, proves an inspired device to bring proceedings to an hilarious conclusion.

Absurdity is a hard thing to get right, and although there are segments of stupidity here that slightly outstay their welcome or don’t quite hit home, Foot is homing in on the perfect eccentric show, year-on-year. It makes him a must-see for seekers of the unconventional.

Review date: 19 Apr 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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