Planet Earth III | Brighton Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett

Planet Earth III

Brighton Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett

With ever-squeezed BBC budgets maybe this will be what the third instalment of David Attenborough’s landmark natural history series will actually look like: one bloke trying to recreate the awe-inspiring majesty and diversity of the animal kingdom with a few household objects and some gaffer tape.

But it’s a hugely entertaining effort. Luke Rollason is a fine mime, fully committing to his non-human alter-egos.. but breaking character for the occasional acknowledgement of the stupidity of what he’s doing, guaranteeing a laugh. There are a lot of familiar Gaulier clown school-style techniques in his playful work, but he makes it his own.

He starts as an angler fish, a bastardised angle-poise light elastic-banded to his skull to show him in an eerie light as he gabbles away nonsensically, resembling nothing more than the old Crazy Frog ringtone.

Then there’s a tragic Romeo and Juliet romance between a couple of jellyfish; a pregnant seahorse; a black widow spider weaving her deadly web, a slothful sloth with big, dumb, beatific grin, and a chameleon that blends in seamlessly.  All the while, a sidekick narrates as Attenborough from the back the room, covering the ‘costume’ changes, and trying to keep a straight face.

Rollason is wonderfully creative in the low-tech invention needed to bring these animals to life, including when they’re improvised in response to audience suggestions.

He has an elastic face, complete with expressive caterpillar eyebrows, able to get laughs with just an intense glance. Similarly, his silly use of props is funny enough even before he does anything with them.  But the imaginative set-ups are always followed through with his jovial characterisation of the critters, somewhere between credible and cartoony.  

Unlike a lot of clowns, Rollason’s audience participation is negligible for the most part. It’s him who has to achieve the challenges – such as extracting jelly while miming a hummingbird – not us. Our role is to root for him while he does it. One exception is the audience member selected to be a predatory Cheetah on the African savannah – a role comedy performer and promoter Bob Slayer threw himself into with relish in this show, having been innocently plucked from his seat.

Rollason is a little heavy handed with some environmental messages toward the end, and he’s a bit hampered by the increasing pervasiveness of clowning in festival shows that nibbles at his originality. But he is undoubtedly expert at what he does, making for an ever-playful hour of silliness from a fertile comic mind.

Review date: 30 May 2017
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