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Tony Law: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

OK, I think I’ve got it. The perfect quote to go on the posters for Tony Law’s next show: ‘Surprisingly consistent – Chortle’.

For while the tongue-in-cheek absurdist has always demonstrated dazzling sparks of inventive genius, he has – until now –  struggled to maintain  the quality over an hour. But this time he’s nailed it with a collection of self-referential, off-the-wall non-sequiturs properly exploiting his natural eccentricity  without ever slipping into the bafflingly indulgent.

The show mocks all the conventions of stand-up – usually affectionately, and usually from the low-status point of view of a fool who can’t really follow everyone else’s rules, so has to replace them with a whole new way of doing things that better suits his irregular mind.

His take, for example, on the Demitri Martin approach of bedding one-liners on a musical underlay rather beautifully misfires by his perfectly inappropriate choice of instrument. Elsewhere, the conversational lines comics unthinkingly spout to introduce their material are subverted in this show about how he ‘feels things about stuff’. The deconstruction also includes as part of a smartly cack-handed approach to laddish ‘banter’, one of the few morally sound rape jokes you’ll here this festival, a sly dig at those comics less talented but more aggressive than himself.

If this sounds like a massive in-joke about the comedy industry, it isn’t. Such techniques are primarily employed to give the hour a hugely distinctive feel, independent of any familiar structures. The main purpose is still to muck about and have fun – and in his performance, Law’s commitment to that aim is beyond reproach. You’ve never seen  a man throw himself into the role of a Mayan priest quite so enthusiastically.

Talking about dedication to the idea, his finale is superb; starting with a set-up about two elephants walking into a bar that  spirals away into wonderfully surreal territory, before ending with the finest admission that he doesn’t really know where he’s going you’ll ever witness. But rest assure, he knows the route exactly.

There are, still, the occasional minor lulls – I’m not sure his explanation of the ancient game of ‘scoop mud’ really took off –  but they are small points, and this year, more than ever before, you trust Law to come good before too long in the long grass of difression.

‘It’s taken me 12 years to get this far,’ he says at one point, in reference to selling out the Stand’s main room. But that also applies to his art – finally all those years of bizarre noodlings have come together in a fine celebration of the absurd, full of laughs like no other.

Review date: 20 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Stand 1

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