Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Join Colin Hoult on another dark, surreal journey into the stranger corners of society – character comedy at its weirdest and most wonderful.
Acclaimed character comedian Colin Hoult returns to the Fringe after last year’s Carnival of Monsters with a brand new show: this time focusing on villains as an underlying theme. Fans of his show last year will be pleased to hear that the follow-up is up to scratch. There’s no radical departure from last year’s formula, but this is no bad thing. Hoult uses his remarkable acting talent and superb comic timing to bring his ensemble of weirdos to life before your eyes.
Accompanied by a splendidly bizarre smattering of musicians in the corner of the stage, Hoult presents a series of sketches and songs that are quite surreal and dark in tone: he uses his characters to unsettle and play with his audience as well as entertain them. In fact, it’s almost a shame he doesn’t do this more – his acknowledgement and involvement of the audience throughout the piece is always very funny, and while one of his last sketches uses that to full effect, it felt like there was room to toy with the audience more than he did.
There are many shows up at the Edinburgh Fringe doing one-man character comedy, but many of them don’t feel successful – either the writing isn’t strong enough, or the comedian isn’t a good enough actor to pull of a variety of different characters. Thankfully, this is not the case for Hoult. Clearly an actor first and comedian second, every one of his characters is not only believable, but recognisable. His writing doesn’t focus on abstract, comic-book style characters (as one might expect from a show with a “villains” theme), but instead turns to the dark, shadowy corners of society – the kind of people you meet every day – and brings them to life before your eyes. Intelligent, well-written punchlines aside, you laugh out of recognition: you know these people, and their familiarity is what makes them real, believable, and ultimately very, very funny.
The show is also very polished – transitions between characters are quick and seamless – and the live musical accompaniment adds both comedy and atmosphere. The writing is very strong, as with his last show – but as with any sketch-based show, not every joke hits the mark quite as well as another. It feels a shame to see characters returning from Hoult’s previous show into this one – although their material was both new and very funny, it almost felt like Hoult needed to bring characters back to fill the show time rather than because they really had to be there. If you’ve seen Carnival of Monsters, then “Enemy of the World” might occasionally feel a little too familiar – but don’t let that stop you from going to see it, because for the vast majority of the time, the show is fresh, fun and engaging.
Whether you’ve seen his previous show or not – but especially if you haven’t – “Enemy of the World” is very highly recommended. Atmospheric, clever, immensely funny, and populated with characters, jokes and ideas that will stay in your mind long after the show has finished. The songs will be stuck in your head, the sketches will make you chuckle long after you’ve seen them, and you’ll remember his characters every time you meet them in the real world. I’m going to go watch his show for a second time before I leave Edinburgh – and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll join me there.