Edinburgh Fringe 2015
“Armed with just his bedroom-made beats and a very literal multiple personality disorder, Iowa’s dopiest music producer Floe-Joe invites you to indulge in his wacky world of sketch, funk and self-centred banter! An intimate listening party of deep-soul music with all the fancy spiel to go with it. Luckily, the spiel is told via a playlist of character comedy sketches by faces that share the brain of music producer Floe-Joe!”
I am no dancer and, for the first time at any Fringe, Ben Fairey made me think that maybe I was – or that it didn’t matter anyway. This physical and vocal comedy performer steps off the stage at times and interacts with the audience, and even their heads. This dextrous and skilfully unhinged actor offers us an hour of modern character comedy that drawns on clown, hip-hop, hip-hip clown and clown-hip hop. In a way it’s an hour of variety but it is rooted in several well drawn characters that talk to, and interact directly with us. There is also beat-box signage but I will reveal no more of that.
In places it felt a bit too unhinged, bordering on unintended performance art. A bit of direction will enhance this, the more it tries to be an hour of theatrical comedy. It could also become even more unhinged in terms of a creative direction. It’s inventive and Fairey can dance, play wigged women, rap and facilitate the dancing skills of reviewers and audience alike. It’s a show that needs a clearer through-line, but is never less than visually impressive and funny. It’s weird in places, always engaging and Fairey knows how to do physical and character comedy. If I tried to do what he can do, I would break my neck and my pen.
Fact: This is a show that deserves a bigger audience. It you are into hip-hop, or are simply looking for some off-beam comedy that works, then Floe Joe’s Faces are for you. Fairey is an accessible, friendly performer; he wants you to enjoy the hour. Spin the head-bucket and you’ll meet a new character. Interwoven with the live action is a tight, superbly made soundtrack and Fairey’s comedy timing is excellent, not only with the live material but also in the way he interatcts with many of the sound and music cues. It’s easy to get used to that underlying backing track and take it for granted but the recorded sound is almost a show in its own right, loaded with micro-gags that weave into the action.
I enjoyed Ben Fairey: Floe Joe’s Faces. The linking thread needs strengthening, the characters clearer stories, but that won’t prevent you wondering what is happening to you, but being glad that, whatever is happening to you, is. A lot of character comedy is becoming a bit formulaic at the Fringe and Fairey has added some disco biscuits to the recipe and offers us something unique at the Mash House. There’s nothing quite like this on the Fringe.
It’s a different show, hard to pin down, but easy to enjoy if you drop your Edinburgh frown and hop into world of the hip swinging man, wig-woman, beanied youth and a lot more unravelling before you. Oh, and be prepared to become a better dancer. Recommended.