One Room Sleep One Night | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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One Room Sleep One Night

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Grant Lancaster has fallen into a classic trap for actors in the construction of this one-man show. Finding himself in receipt of a great true story filled with naturally comedic moments, he’s naturally seen the potential to draw on his skills and take it to the stage. Missing, all the while, the fact there’s a reason why comedians usually spend years honing their chops on the circuit before making their first stab at a full hour.

In his early 20s, on a solo motorcycle trip through northern Thailand, Lancaster stopped off in a rural mountain village and drank a bad coffee. Five days later, whatever was in that coffee was making mincemeat out of his central nervous system, and he found himself becoming slowly paralysed as he frantically tried to make it through the Thai medical establishment and back home to New York.

It’s a premise that provides plenty of opportunities for farce, as Lancaster tries to advocate for himself to doctors, hoteliers and airline reps while staggering, drooling and cross-eyed with a strange, slack-jawed voice. It’s a look that hasn’t been in vogue since the Three Stooges.

In a particularly annoying choice, he jumps in and out of character as his own fictional manager Morty, who clumsily attempts to mitigate any audience unease with Lancaster’s paralysed act: ‘That’s just how he talked!’

This concern about causing offence for true life depictions is pretty hack, but also misses the point slightly – it’s Lancaster’s performance style that makes the experience so grating. Modelling your comedic persona on Ace Ventura is a bold call at the best of times; in the context of a largely silent single-digit audience at the top of the Patter Hoose it becomes a white-knuckle ride of discomfort as every wildly over-emphasised joke and mugging Spasm falls wide of the mark.

The show is briefly much better when he drops the act. Sitting on a plane with severe chest pains, about to take a 20-hour flight, Lancaster gets serious and the stakes become very real. His acting training comes to the fore and we momentarily feel real concern, forgetting that everything obviously turned out fine for our extremely annoying hero.

Unfortunately, the seriousness too is quickly taken too far, and within seconds he’s beating his chest, on the verge of crying, shouting that ‘comedy is hope!’

Fundamentally, the story is a good one, and well-structured in places. Any part of this show could have been so much better with just a little restraint.

Review date: 15 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Tim Harding
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Patter House

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