The very model of a fringe play, this two-hander has something to say, says it effectively and entertainingly, and doesn't linger. I don't want to overpraise it, but it's a solid, insightful and well-acted piece.
It's the story of two aspiring stand-up comics, first encountered as they dream of a grand future for their double act - fame, glory, their names in lights, and maybe even their first actual gig.
Even at the start, though, there are danger signs, if you notice that one repeatedly says 'I' where the other says 'we.' When one happens to get a five-minute solo spot at a local open-mic night his ego explodes, as does the partnership.
We next meet the boys a year later, their separate careers having taken some surprising turns, and the possibility is raised of their getting back together.
The play is about what drives such fledgeling comics - the dreams, on the one hand, of champagne and caviar, and on the other, of pushing back the boundaries of comedy in myth-making ways - in short, of becoming the next Morecambe and Wise or the next Lenny Bruce.
Both fantasies are seen as heroic even if slightly ridiculous, and one of the play's strengths is its recognition that absurd goals and over-inflated egos may be especially necessary for those on the lowest rungs of the ladder.
And that may be one of the play's weaknesses as well, as its willingness both to admire and laugh at the boys makes its ultimate point-of-view unclear. By the end you may not know whether their reuniting would be a happy ending or an ironic one, whether the play prefers a reasonable level of success or an impossible all-or-nothing idealism. Or perhaps that's deliberate, leaving the questions open for your consideration.
Written by Jez Butterworth, Ben Miller and Simon Godley (respectively a playwright, a comedian and an actor - one wonders about the division of labour there), the play occasionally wanders into overwritten and self-consciously poetic language.
Alan Drake as the dominant, more idealistic but also more egotistical of the two, and Oliver Fishman as his more passive but also more talented buddy are both first-rate, believable in both their unity and their conflicts. Jason Lawson directs with a solid realism and unflagging pacing.
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Review - Huge - King's Head 2006