Comedy: Frimston and Rowett
Tom Powell found laughs were to be had, despite some thin material
by Tom Powell
Wednesday 23rd May 2012, 11:48 BST
I had never seen a funerary strip tease until this Tuesday evening. The clammy auditorium was just over half full as Frimston slowly unbuttoned his shirt with a pained expression, to reveal a thin white vest bearing commiserations for the deceased. He kept on stripping, revealing more comments on the corpse whilst looking like he was in the grip of a severe emotional breakdown, until we saw ‘RIP’ emblazoned across his buttocks. It brought the house down.
Frimston and Rowett are a pair of Cambridge graduates who are taking a sketch show up to the Fringe, to try to make it in the big bad world of comedy. And they did have a handful of truly brilliant sketches, in the middle of a series of repeating characters and gags that demonstrated the law of diminishing returns. They were at their best when they darkest: a tragic death in Fireman Sam and the funeral-strip were a near-perfect sketch combination in the middle of the show. There was plenty of well-conceived material, but it was spread too thinly in the midst of returning structures and characterisations. Quite often, an excellent premise for a sketch would return two or three times with the jokes basically unaltered. It was a shame that arguably the best sketch of the night, the sinister ‘Where’s Wally?’ sequel, had been seen before by the audience because it was a stroke of genius.
It was always going to be a challenge to keep the pace of the show up with only two performers, and by and large they managed through clever juxtaposition of sketches, and a use of music that almost always let to a joke in its own right. The uniformly dire comedy accents were at first amusing, but the duo was beset by the problem of differentiating between characters. This wasn’t helped by a few clumsy lighting changes and the limitations of the pair as comedy performers: they often fell into very similar character combinations. Rowett’s deep, sonorous voice was spot-on for playing the apprehensive birthday boy whose flat-mate has got him a bathroom full of owls for his birthday, but it transpired this was less a character voice and more just his own.
That was the limitation of the act, really. Belly laughs were at a premium: though the bizarrely startling laughs of two members of the audience regularly tore through everyone else’s giggles. The pair’s often exquisite punnery deserves a mention: their Mobster-pastiche sketch seemed to push wordplay almost to breaking point, to a raucous reception. The puns were more instinct than brain surgery, but they did the job admirably. But moments of brilliance were juxtaposed with jokes that went on for far too long; the musical sun-death sketch and the odd-cop pairings ideas outstayed their welcome with little refinement of the original joke. It was a welcome relief when the RIP arse inadvertently bared its face again. It had been billed as a kind of ‘best-of’ showcase; which made the repeated jokes more disappointing.
So here’s the rub. In the knowledge that this review is of a one-off rather than a week-long run and so my primary aim is neither to recommend nor to deter, all that remains to say is that those present had a highly enjoyable time, despite the show’s faults, and if you weren’t there…well, you can’t turn back time. And that is a fact.