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Review: Beasts: Live DVD @ The Edinburgh Fringe

This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com

Comedy sketch troupe Beasts’ new show, Live DVD, is not really a sketch show; it’s a sketch show gone wrong. The Beasts (Owen Roberts, James McNicholas and Ciarán Dowd) are attempting to film their best ever show, in the hope of impressing some bigshot Hollywood producer enough to cast them in his remake of Moby Dick. Sadly, straight-man Roberts is unable to contain the enthusiasm of his fellow performers – the unsophisticated Dowd and the frantic, bespectacled McNicholas – and all hell breaks loose, with utterly hilarious consequences.

As Roberts desperately tries to keep their sketch show on the rails, frequently insisting that they return to the start to get it just right, Dowd is more concerned with himself and a hopeless McNicholas humbly does his best, but just can’t get it right. It is in this chaos that the show’s comedy lies. The riotous atmosphere, coupled with frequent and forceful bouts of audience interaction, is enough to have anyone rolling in the aisles. Dowd’s obsession with introducing the audience to his new character, The Naked Baker, is a particularly amusing, especially when The Naked Baker finally takes to the stage, bare as the day he was born, save for a adroitly placed bap.

And the scenes themselves, when Roberts can finally coerce Dowd and McNicholas into acting, are equally amusing. An advert for bread, a reimagination of The Last Supper, and a sketch involving gay pirates – all are brilliantly conceived, with the perfect combination of absurdity and wit. The last, featuring a lengthy parody of Pirates of the Caribbean duels, is simple and childish, but performed with such joyous gusto as to be side-splittingly funny.

All three performers deserve credit for their perseverance and commitment. Dowd, a great bear of a man, has a shade of David Brent about him during the more sober moments, as he frequently makes pedantic asides to the audience. But there is nothing of Brent’s awkwardness here, only a booming voice and an infectious, bawdy charm. McNicholas is loveable, in a dorky, clumsy sort of way and Roberts’ frustration with both him and Dowd is hilarious, and a little too believable at times.

This is comedy that flies on energy and confidence. It is physical, obvious and frequently crude, but it is often witty and always well-delivered. True, Beasts’ relentless vitality can sporadically touch on irritating, but for the vast majority of the show, the audience are caught up in the maelstrom of jokes and mishaps.

4/5

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