Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Bob and Sam may be one card short of a full deck but they have plenty to say in this energetic return of C. J. Hopkin’s surreal and thought-provoking satire on culture, freedom and the meaning of life. This is great writing and super acting that together provide a Fringe hidden gem that is well worth seeking out.
Bob and Sam sit drinking, talking and philosophising while they think about playing cards and much, much more. They are instantly recognisable characters. There is the childlike, scruffy-haired and dishevelled Sam in his dungarees. Then there is the smarter, more cynical, cool and collected, hat and tie wearing Bob. Like all great double acts, they are trapped in a world of their own making and they are nothing without each other. Like Laurel and Hardy, winners and losers, and fish on bicycles this duo work perfectly together and they are highly entertaining.
There is another double act at work; the writing and the performance. For writing that is this good the acting has to be good too, and it is. The talking is non-stop, with quick-fire patter and exchanges that are reminiscent of comedy from a time gone by. The delivery is flawless with supporting physicality, facial expressions and timing that provides a masterclass in acting and theatrical clowning. Fishing and the cowboy scene with wind in the hair and the question “do I look like a cowboy to you?” are two stand out scenes from many that are staged effectively, supported by subtle changes and shifts in lighting. There is even some magic too.
The writing is tight, entertaining and mesmerising. On the surface we have some funny and smart dialogue that can at times feel like a nonsensical surreal stream of consciousness that takes us from one topic to the next. There are snippets of conversational ping pong that seem to make sense but then at the same time do not. But deeper down and between the lines there is a message and a conundrum to be solved. At one point the characters challenge themselves and the audience when they say “we are talking, but what are we saying?” and that really is the central question. We are also warned “there is too much thinking”. Well, take care because this is dramatic art that prompts you to think, to fill in the gaps, and to pull together the pieces and interpret the work in your own way. Where are Bob and Sam in place and time? What are they trying to say? Are these characters two separate people or just two halves of a greater whole of nothingness? Perhaps more importantly what is a “redemption carrot” and where is that nine of diamonds?
Some of life’s most perplexing questions and cultural concerns may remain difficult if not impossible to answer. However, one action is clear, you are advised to take off your slippers, grab your hat and coat and get out there. There’s a world of wonder to be explored, it’s nice out and it’s a free country after all. You should consider making this show your next port of call.