Brighton Fringe 2011
The secret behind the successful double-act is good on-stage chemistry, and Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon (as one bizarre interlude involving latex gloves and lubricant proves) are clearly comfortable with each other on stage. More than comfortable: they casually spark off each other with the kind of relaxed ease many comedy acts strive for.
This calm, confident approach to performing is McNeil and Pamphilon’s biggest asset – and clearly one they recognise, as their frequent audience-directed interludes between sketches demonstrate.
About two-thirds of the show is made up of situation or character based material, and the rest of McNeil and Pamphilon as versions of themselves: engaging the audience directly, bouncing off each other with practised ease, exchanging jokes and punchlines. These weren’t merely there to break up the sketches: they’re sketches in themselves, and it’s with this material in particular that the two men shine. Both are fully aware of their roles in the act: McNeil as the straight man keeping things tied to reality, while Pamphilon’s offbeat silliness tugs the show into weirder, darker territory; this recognised dynamic gives them enough freedom to play, experiment and improvise with the material. Buried within this "break between sketches" context were many of the pair’s strongest jokes, sharpest lines and most memorable moments: their definition of a grown-up was a notable highlight.
For the most part, their show is well written, well observed and very funny. Some of their material veers into cheap shock tactics for an easy punchline, which, when it occurs, is a shame – because at their best, McNeil and Pamphilon’s material manages to find a good balance between the dark and the absurd. Particular favourites in the mix included the invention of thrash metal, the man whose wife had been eaten by a shark, and a Batman with varying accents looking for a little gratitude from Commissioner Gordon.
This show was advertised as a mix between highlights from the double act’s Edinburgh 2010 show, and new material destined for their 2011 effort in August. Having not seen their show from last year, it’s impossible to say whether the sketches I favoured were the new ones, old ones, or a mix of the two. But despite some weaker sketches, McNeil and Pamphilon put forward a genuinely warm, consistently funny, well-paced and strongly delivered hour of comedy. If you’re planning a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe this August, these two deserve to be on your list to see. Highly recommended.