Singles Collection

Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Patrick Sykes

at 20:57 on 28th Aug 2011

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This Free Fringe show follows Andy Davies’s attempt to teach his fellow comedian, Tim Shishodia, the mechanics of stand-up, with the humour intended to be in Shishodia’s limited successes. Davies takes him through the motions of stereotypical audience participation, and the results point fun at convention by contorting the usual efforts at call and response, or at observations on the venue. In essence, The Singles Collection tries to make good comedy of bad comedy.

It doesn’t quite work, and the repercussions are, unsurprisingly, bad. Despite occasional moments of fantastically awkward chatter, jokes are in general set up with lengthy back-stories and fall flat as soon as their punchlines land their scrappy blows. Sometimes these back-stories have comic merit in themselves, as is the case with the tale of the extraordinarily eloquent Big Issue vender, but the writing lacks any sense of momentum, and any investment in the narrative rarely sees a return.

Davies and Shishodia were in fact at their best when forced to deviate from their prepared (though I use that word with some hesitation) material. The insistent ringing of one audience member’s phone prompted a self-deprecating exchange in which the duo voiced their own lack of confidence in the merits of their own show. This was either a witty manipulation of circumstance or a revelation of a long-resigned sense of self-pity. It is not at all clear which, and the line between laughing at and with is blurred.

To say that it is their material that lets them down sounds brutal, but it is true. Davies and Shishodia are clearly naturally funny guys, and seem to have a productive engagement with one another, but this only really becomes apparent when they leave the script (again, I hesitate) behind, and are forced to react to the dynamism of stand-up that obviously interests them.

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Donnchadh O'Conaill

at 11:43 on 29th Aug 2011

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Free stand-up is always a lottery, not just because the quality of the acts varies so widely, but because audiences are so diverse and unpredictable. They can be forgiving of almost anything in an it’s-free-so-who-cares? spirit, or they can sit frostily through the best efforts of comedians trying to do something a little different. Singles Collection was unusual chiefly because so much of this diversity, both from the standard of the acts and the reception they received, was on display in the one show.

Andy Davies and Tim Shishodia introduce proceedings together, and quickly establish their basic personae: Davies the happy-go-lucky idiot, bantering with the audience and then attempting to lead baffled outsider Shishodia through similar routines. This was amusing enough, but the gig took the first of its sharp turns during Davies’ solo spot. After some cheap but entirely justified gags at the venue’s grotty location (the alley leading up to it has to be smelled to be believed), he launched into a couple of rambling stories about a visit to Australia for a wedding. The material was at first mildly amusing, with Davies a confident performer, skilfully using repetition and pauses to wring the most out of his set. But it culminated in a fairly dire pun which met with the silence it deserved. Shishodia shuffled back on stage ‘to bring the gig back’, and the exchanges between the two suggested that this was part of the act, but their demeanour hinted that things weren’t going to plan.

Shishodia is a more interesting performer, extremely dry, his crumpled features occasionally breaking into a grin. He tosses out puns and extends a couple of them to ridiculous lengths, but seems to be playing well within himself. This is at least partly down to his low-energy persona, but also bafflement at the reaction of the audience. In fact, more than once the prepared material about how badly things are going comes uncomfortably close to the truth. When an audience member’s phone went off, it actually felt like a welcome relief. After that, things seemed to pick up, and the acts were rewarded for their perseverance by warm applause at the end,

It’s hard to judge a comedy show when the audience seemed so reticent to go along with the central conceit. There’s enough good material here to suggest that, given a better reception, it could be a tidy hour. Shishodia is the more accomplished performer, but benefits from playing off of Davies’ energy and enthusiasm. That said, the material is wildly inconsistent, with only a few really strong ideas. Maybe it was always destined to flirt with failure ,and occasionally go the whole way.

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