Cariad And Paul: A Two-Player Adventure | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Pleasance, Islington

Cariad And Paul: A Two-Player Adventure

Note: This review is from 2013

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Pleasance, Islington

Apparently when Cariad Lloyd and Paul Foxcroft performed this show at Edinburgh, some reviewers weren’t convinced it was improvised at all.

Such scepticism might be naive, but it’s understandable. The pair are the slickest in the business, generating almost an hour’s worth of faultlessly performed long-form scenes from a single word suggested by the audience. Tonight: Pumpernickel.

This triggers a couple of minutes of two-handed stand-up, the word prompting dim recollections of childhood TV shows and, somehow, trips to the ballet to see their performer friends act as human scenery. It’s not immediately obvious, but this chit-chat is setting the backdrop for the subsequent sketches.

So much of traditional improv depends on the audience always being aware of the high-wire nature of the art. How many games get laughs from the performers’ struggle, or other ways of drawing attention to the spontaneity? But Cariad and Paul produce seamless performances, not an ‘umm’ or ‘aah’ in earshot. The result does, indeed, rival the best scripted shows.

A compelling darkness pervades all tonight’s offerings – the League of Gentlemen would be as good a comparison as any. In the opening scene, one of the two CITV writers tasked with generating new ways for Shane Ritchie to be gunged, is a tortured artist; while their boss, and his wife, are intense grotesques and no respecters of personal spaced.

Another strand involves two depraved religious devotees, their gruesome oneupmanship initially acted out entirely as a silent scene, so persuasively that you’ll really believe a man has a syringe of heroin protruding from his eye.

There is much more to this than gross-out humour, though. The characters are fully drawn and largely sympathetic, not least in the final strand: the awkward, tentative first date between two member of the same ballet chorus - one of whom proves tragically bad at talking to the opposite set.

Cariad and Paul return to each idea several times, finding new and imaginative back-stories to explore and exhibiting an impressive telepathy as to where they are heading. Each scene even ends with a proper punchline, which many scripted shows have trouble with. Both too, have such an innate understanding of timing, of emphasis and of the absurd use of English to get laughs out of lines both apparently ordinary, and eccentrically inappropriate. In context, ‘What you are doing now is a wasp!’ is hilarious as well as bizarre.

Their classiness as performers is underlined by the accompaniment of of cellist CJ Lodge, who adds atmosphere to already immersive scenes, beautifully rounding off an stylish, funny and imaginative hour.

Review date: 19 Oct 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Islington

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