Brighton Fringe 2009
This is a new, more modern (dare we say post-modern) offering from the Penny Dreadfuls who now grace not only the stage, but also the radio as well. The Never Man is set on Beef Island (owned of course by the evil Doctor Beef). A group of competition winners uncover the darker secrets of this supposed theme park in an enjoyable comedy thriller.
The Penny Dreadfuls have left behind (at last for the present) their usual Victorian comedy-spoof format, and set their new offering "The Never Man" on Beef Island, a theme park with dark secrets. We’re in a modern setting, which has allowed the trio to create a brand new set of characters, and deliver a show that feels fresh whilst allowing them mine more rcent genres of film and literature.
All the signature ingredients are here: fast-paced comedy, well drawn and inhabited characters, visual and verbal gags tumbling off the page and stage, and a large dose of comic interplay between three very fine comic actors. We are on familar ground here. A tale of mystery unfolds that creates the opportunity for David Reed, Thom Tuck & Humphrey Ker to demonstrate their leading edge skills as comedians and character perfomers, as sharp writers of both story and sketch.
This is a production at an early stage of development. Some characters are stronger than others. Although the "small boy" is played to perfection by Ker (who is very tall!), this character almost steals the show and unbalances the piece. I am sure as the show develops over the coming months, the other characters will become more clearly defined as will a storyline that isn’t yet as well crafted as the Aeneas Faversham offerings. Aeneas Faversham’s villians were darker and Dr Beef needs to be beefed up.
That said, these are three such strong and impressive performers that the show is never less than very good. They are clearly enjoying themselves on the edge of a piece that is finding its feet, but is always full of restless energy, playful comedy, quit wit and, most of all, laughs. The physical and verbal set pieces, as usual, can border on genius in terms of comedy material and quick-wittedness. Their timing and face-theatre is as strong as ever. I can’t wait to see this show peaking at Edinburgh this August.