Slightly Fat Features: Variety in the House, Roundhouse, London
Wednesday 27 April 2011
A man runs naked from the sea, gathering clothes as his journey progresses on land – a Reggie Perrin-esque escapade in reverse. So opens this family-friendly variety show that, for the most part, covers itself in credit.
An ensemble of seven musicians and performers, and one fine artist, provide a collection of comedy magic and vaudevillian cabaret. Retro treats include juggling on unicycles and a reprise of Wilson, Keppel and Betty's Sand Dance, in which the two protagonists are unsure of the plural of bedouin.
With the air of a university troupe who have been together a very long time, the ensemble contains some wildly different personality types, all of whom, with the exception of the kid-friendly loon Herbie Treehead, avoid anything approaching a defined character.
For the first 20 minutes of the show, two questions nag – can you get anything out of this if you are an adult and do you need a narrative thread to hang on to, one that might explain why this odd collection of performers came together?
The answers, respectively, are yes and no, though not emphatically. As the show proceeds goodwill is created by, for example, the silent antics of the artist Jon Hicks, who succeeds in catching a toy elephant after it has been catapulted from a Heath Robinson-style contraption that utilises a toy robot, a roll of tape and a hammer.
Similarly, a pastiche of a Siegfried & Roy-type act is winning and a new take on the game Find the Lady, using a man dressed as a woman, proves hard to resist. Weak links include Herbie Treehead's time-sapping song about happiness, and his contributions seem to jar with the rest of the antics that populate this ambitiously long show, which lasts more than 90 minutes.
Although closing the show takes a while, as a fountain tableau almost tops a splendid juggling feat, the hour-and-a-half passes by briskly enough and builds up ever-more warmth. Some discerning editing is still needed and a little foray into character or back story would be a similarly fleet-of-foot move.
Touring to 3 June ( www.slightlyfatfeatures.com)
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