Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Strap in for explosive surrealism as we plunge into Paul Curries sparkling mind-satchel of solid gold silliness. Last year’s Comedians Choice Best Show winner is back with something stunningly funny.
The Edinburgh Fringe is dominated by comedy. It’s by far the biggest section in the book. This means there are many talented comedians doing the same type of show. There are a smaller number of acts who are less mainstream and they stand out because of this. And then there is Paul Currie.
Paul is from Northern Ireland, he has a strong physical presence, bubbling with energy. His beard, long wild blonde hair and distinctive blue eyes hold your attention. Visually at times, a cross between a marauding Viking and a renaissance representation of Jesus. His voice has the harsh Northern Irish accent, which he plays up or down as required.
You think that would enough, but not for Paul. His entrance, from the behind the audience, is a sight to behold. It’s dramatic, unexpected and from the start, attention grabbing.
I should explain for those unfamiliar with Paul, he’s an absurdist comedian. Normally when writing a comedy review discretion is required. Revealing a punchline ruins a gag and that’s unfair to the artist. In this case it is difficult to describe any element of Paul’s show that will reveal or undermine the funniness.
The show appears to be a stream of consciousness, with the randomness that implies. It’s frenetic, it changes direction repeatedly. There are longer form physical pieces, inter-sped with some very short form gags. Some jokes fly past so quick you miss them. He uses call back, links, tells jokes, reveals elements of his own life and paints pictures in our minds. We have no idea what is coming next.
There’s audience participation, which is caringly done. Everyone joins in, this isn’t picking on people. Any wariness on behalf of the participant is down to being unsure of what Paul will do next. Even when it goes wrong, for example when the selected individual is the only person in the room who doesn’t know a very famous song, it manages to become part of the show.
Running throughout is an infectious soundtrack with songs and tunes. The volume is high, the energy is contagious. We stand, we sing, we dance and no one minds. This is one of the happiest audiences from any show I’ve seen. It is not just that we laugh, the genius lies in making us happy. The two things are not the same.
For all the noise, chaos and borderline insanity it would be easy to think that this was a show where the artist is just randomly doing silly things, without form and plan. This is not the case, each routine has been gone through in detail, gestures, looks, glances, scripts and props are exquisitely crafted. You can see this in the complexity of the technical cues, the beauty of the puppetry and the sound of the typewriter.
There are some more serious moments. Paul has a message, he takes time to share it and we want to embrace it. His chaotic anarchy is an inspiration, a call to throw off normalcy and be.
Fair warning, not everyone will take to Paul’s show, although I didn’t notice anyone who didn’t enjoy the experience, it’s not mainstream, it is different. In absurdist comedy, it stands out from its peers because of the level of detail and the emotional connection it evokes and like jazz or abstract art, it isn’t for everyone.
I tried to work out why it’s funny and I have to say that I don’t know. Describing elements of the piece to people, even something as iconic as his Panda Hands, would produce a look of bafflement. “Why is that funny?” they’d ask and in answer, I would have none. If 100 other comedians were to perform this act, tumbleweed would drift through the room and if you saw it on the telly, you’d be reaching for the remote control. However, to a live audience it’s infectious, contagious, it’s almost alive.
The closest I can come to explaining this show is that he taps into our memory of what it was like to be a child. He skips through our rational adult mental filters and speaks to that sense of wonder and laughter that ordinary life has buried. The feeling you had when you were convulsed with the giggles over something that, as an adult, seems quite mundane.
As reviewers we are asked to consider how a show could be improved. I cannot. Nothing I could suggest would be of relevance because this is such a unique creation. It would be like telling Michelangelo he needs to work on his hand carving.
In years of watching comedy three comedians have made me cry with laughter, mid-show. Paul is one of them.
This show is a ‘must see’ show. It’s brilliant, it’s fun and a joy to behold but honestly, I have no idea why.