Edinburgh Fringe 2010
The illegitimate offspring of Russell Brand and the Judder Man welcomes you into the space, and begins to tell his story. Essentially, Casual Violence have chosen a single idea – death by sex toy – and expanded it to a series of extended sketches.
Less a narrative, more an excuse to thread together some comic, larger than life characters, this succeeds largely because, while the actors are willing to play up to the hilt, it never feels indulgent or at the cost of ignoring the audience. This is an impressive trick to pull off, since Casual Violence appear to be ticking all the boxes of what you shouldn’t do at the fringe: big characters, with storylines and gags specifically designed to get a shock from the audience. But these are never sex jokes just for the sake of it – the writing’s a lot smarter than that.
There’s a good deal of rigour and vigour here, from an appearance by the Adult Film Star Of The Year 1954, to a six foot pianist with a eight inch penis, and the fact that we’re in a adult toy shop that sells anything your sordid mind could want – and yet, whenever a customer requests something, it’s ‘kept in the back’.
Individual characters are not credited to the actor playing them, and so it’s difficult to name any particular performance, but there’s a stand-out performance from a character who has a somewhat grave kink. His delivery comes across as a Jackanory episode on necrophilia. But it should be noted that there’s not a weak and unfocussed performance here, and it seems likely that that can be credited to writer/director James Hamilton as well as the talented cast. A tightening up of narrative threads at the end is needed, and it seems the running time might have curtailed the chance to see more of the murders that, in the end, are only reported. But otherwise, this is genuinely funny, naughty story-telling that, remarkably, never feels smutty or lazy.
Come and laugh. As it were.