Edinburgh Fringe 2019
“A social experiment? A support group for people looking to find their own comedy? 12-step meeting? Literal mind-reading show? A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? (Unless you go back the next day?) A prayer group? A waste of everyone’s time and money? Those who wish to participate are free to do so, as are those who prefer to sit back, relax and watch the spectacle unfold.”
We walk into the room and Lock is sitting, warm, relaxed and smiling, inviting us to sit wherever we like – in the circle joining him or in the stalls above. I choose the circle. Within seconds there are nervous giggles and awkward smiles as Lock starts but doesn’t start anything. We get side tracked onto house admin, then that turns into another tangent. There is a heightened curiosity in the room. “Nothing is going to happen”, Locke calmly tells us. “But some of you will laugh at nothing”. More titters.
The set is simple; just chairs for the audience and ordinary daylight. No music. No special effects. No scripted prose. No high tech visuals and no mime. What is it then? Well it’s a community circle. It’s a meeting that never starts. But it’s also a gathering of emotional and intellectual depth, humour and creative impulse. It’s a marvellous thing.
To me there is nothing more enjoyable than seeing fresh comedy emerge right in front of you, as brilliant as a pre-rehearsed show can be, observational humour that comes out of unpredictable audience interaction is such a treat. And in terms of power dynamics, although this is Locks gig, he is confident enough to give the audience a surprising amount of control.
“I’m just wondering about your new boy band look Trevor”.
We laugh and agree and start to list how he wouldn’t look out of place in a boyband. And the show doesn’t find its fodder in simple back and forth basic audience humiliation as some stand up can do. We actually unpeel some beautiful qualities of audience members and feel a bit more warm and fuzzy inside about those who were strangers only 28 minutes previously. This takes understated skill. Lock was fascinating to watch in his element, staying just on the right side of cruel, with enough of an edge to gives the audience justification to keep a bit on their toes and watch him carefully, he misses nothing, even a touch to your nose, and very quickly the spotlight can be on you. But it really doesn’t have to be either and he seems to sense well those who are game for a show and those who want to hide and just watch. It’s fine to do both in this unique production.
Being in the circle is intense and so much fun. I think looking down on the circle must be just as much fun, and there’s nowhere to hide anyway because Lock gets just about everyone involved, if they want to. I don’t think there is anything else like this at the Fringe and as Community Circle has been running for 7 years, and it had a good audience on the day I went, it’s clear people really like it. In fact, some members of the the audience had been the year before and chose to come back, armed with pints of beer and big smiles in anticipation.
We all left smiling, and it was the strangest thing to feel as if I had got to know these faces quite well, even some names, and in the best possible way. No “hello how are you, what do you do” This was a more playful way of getting to know people, and that brought down armours in unexpectedly lovely ways.
This wasn’t just a masterclass in comedy and group behaviour; this was a Phd on human connection.