Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Juggling, babbling, conjuring and beat boxing Korean expert clownish physical comedians create laughter and a few gasps in their new show.
Edinburgh suffers from a reviewers’ disease. It has for years, and it bothers me. The main symptom is this: When an outstanding piece of comedy or theatre also happens to be warm-hearted, unashamedly positive or gentle in its motive, it gets docked a star in the absurb world of star rating. Warm-hearted shows rarely get five stars. I’ve just read two reviews of this show that praise it to the skies and then give it four stars. Cynical reviewing.
I also read a review, in which the reviewer, clearly having failed to sit forward and give the show proper attention, has said bits of it were incomprehensible. Lazy reviewing.
Well, not so here. Babbling Comedy 2 is Perfordian’s best work to date and it stands out for a number of reasons.
Firstly it is pitched perfectly for all the family. It isn’t designed for cold-hearted reviewers. It’s designed for enjoyment, laughter and a few gasps. It achieves all three to a rousing ovation at the end.
Most of the props come from a large toybox on the stage and from these simple things there emerges a mix of traditional circus tricks, a few magic tricks, as well as some beat-box wizardry. This is all grounded in four funny and endearing characters, dressed childishly but often displaying some very adult quirks and qualms. A gentle narrative runs through the piece as the four highly skilled perfomers jostle with each other for the limelight but also demonstrate a willingness to collaborate and find synergy. That’s heart warming, and actually, never cheesy. When it does become sentimental it’s laughing in a good way at the human condition. They laugh and cry at themselves. We do the same, and ultimately we laugh and cry at ourselves in the process. Perfect, traditional clowning, dressed in new costumes.
There’s a carefulness to the comedy tempo and mood, despite the use of toilet humour and various orifices. There’s a tenderness in the way the four work with each other – one senses a true ensemble, not four individuals working together for a Fringe show. There’s a lot of practice and artistry behind the wonderful babbling chaos, which is made of up of fine ingredients, physical and vocal – entrances and exits, posture and position on stage, verbal and bodily gestures, lighting, visual punchlines and payoffs, clever repetition, inventiveness, music and skilled choice in the order of tricks and stunts.
There’s a rare diversity to the show which also stands out. It reminds me of a more traditional but, nevertheless, equally outstanding performer who is also here at the Fringe for younger audiences – namely, Tim Bat with his "Trick Show". In that show, the performer covers such a broad range of skills and routines, there’s a kind of gesture of generosity inherent in the show towards the audience – so much packed into a single show. Often circus and clown performers drag out a small handful of tricks to last an hour. Magicians and street performers can be the worst at this. Not so here. The babbling comedians pack it in, with routines a-plenty, and it’s all highly skilled, so very diverse and one can really feel the generosity from the performers, not only to give us a fine time, but also to give us a rich and diverse experience, making the most of every penny we’ve spent and every second we are in the space.
Next we have the sheer skill. They take several of their tricks to breathtaking limits and do it with seeming ease, all using a banter that doesn’t go to the comedy limits – it stays gentle mostly and therefore is accessible to more than one generation. In other words, you can bring the whole family.
The magic tricks are delivered as comedy routines but there are a couple of moments of studied silence which really create a moment of electricity. For example, a trick with a can of coke. I won’t spoil it for you.
The beat-box circus tricks are also excellent because they combine more than one spectacle and it is this integration of two or more routines at the same time that also makes this an exemplary performance.
If I have one criticism it is that sometimes their use of gobble-de-gook English is sometimes hilarious and at other times too close to real speaking and it jars a little in terms of consistency.
Overall, the hour flies by and one can feel a reluctance in the audience for it to end. The warm-heartedness and friendliness is authentic and that gives the show an atmosphere of open-heartedness as well. We connect with the performers, and that allows the fourth wall to feel as if it has a large open window, opened out towards we, the audience. When a juggling baton is dropped, we care, and the four boys have a back-up routine ready. They play out a little drama that’s at the heart of the very best in clowining: people who need and love each other, even as they clash and conflict. There are spats and competitions but there is also support and friendship, and all the while they are swallowing ballons, breaking wind, juggling and creating a hundred split second comedy reactions, doubletakes and babbling responses.
These are four very fine Chinese clown-circus-comedy performers and they deserve five FringeReview stars. Oh, and by the way, only joking: THEY ARE KOREAN!