Hans Teeuwen, Soho Theatre, London

Julian Hall
Monday 28 January 2008 01:00
Comments

Hans Teeuwen's absurdist approach is much more literal than the cartoon surrealism of Eddie Izzard or the ludicrous ham-antics of a Chris Lynam. An unholy mix of Nick Cave, Chris Morris, Jim Carrey and Iggy Pop (and probably a few more besides), the Dutch comedian is hard to take your eyes off. His opening gambit for this show is to appear crippled with nerves until he tweaks his nipples for relief. The awkward energy is maintained throughout and personifies the erratic narratives of his "anti-anecdotes", which feel improvised (though they are not), as if he was compiling a story by taking each line from a different person.

Teeuwen, who now only performs in English in an effort to push his boundaries (a decision compounded by the murder of his film-maker friend Theo Van Gogh in 2004), has a curious armoury of tales. They include a Hollywood spoof where the hero, Dwight, rescues a woman and her couch from an inferno, only to be mistreated and misrepresented. The plot involves a visit to a Kenny Rogers concert, which, even by the standards of other non-sequiturs, is a wasted journey. However, the innocuous payoff – "these are the kind of movies I like" – is a great example of the charm upon which this show rides, if precariously.

From playing the theme from Popeye on his cheeks, and rhymes delivered as military chants ("birthday cake, birthday cake, peace negotiations at the bottom of a lake"), to a long seduction scene that turns into a memory of child abuse, Teeuwen takes a sideways glance at life. There's a pervasive neurotic angst to the show, most evident in a routine where he's crippled by indecision, an affliction that shows off his knack for physical comedy and "noise-scaping", where grunts and groans do the talking.

The theme of gratitude also comes through strongly in two stories where characters reject his best intentions, one a man whom he has savagely attacked but who won't accept his apology, the other the captain of a "submarine spaceship" immune to the wisdom of Teeuwen's tips on "submarine spaceship" design.

The gratitude of the audience, which had a large Dutch contingent, was quite clear. For myself, I could recognise performance over punchline and craft over content. I smiled a lot but didn't go Dutch on laughs.

To 2 February (020-7478 0100)

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