EFR - Reviews of Jody Kamali: One Man Variety Show

Jody Kamali: One Man Variety Show

Sun 3rd – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Fergus Morgan

at 04:45 on 21st Aug 2014

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The particular beauty of a variety show is that should one act fail to impress, it is only moments before another takes its place. One might think that with Jody Kamali’s One Man Variety Show then, that the performance’s concept (one man taking on every act, including the host) would inevitably forfeit this advantage. When coupled with the show’s parodic nature, however, Kamali’s energy and versatility ensure that this never becomes an issue.

Kamali slips, if not effortlessly, then at least entertainingly ineptly between a plethora of characters, including endearingly accented host Frank Valentine, a hilariously serious ‘Man of Mystery’, a opera singer who occasionally slips into pumping pop class classics and a wise-man from the Asian subcontinent whose nipples have healing powers. Every act is a caricature of the ‘real thing’; hence the ‘Man of Mystery’ affects an air of ethereal mystique whilst juggling Sainsbury’s carrier bags, and the opera singer belts out five seconds of Madonna in the middle of his solo.

Audience interaction, as would be expected, is prominent throughout and is largely executed well. Particularly funny moments include the Healer’s attempt to ‘cure’ a couple by placing their hands on his bare nipples and forcing them to gently massage them and a moment when the ‘Man of Mystery’ tries to read a spectator’s mind and confesses that ‘there is absolutely nothing there’. There is perhaps a slight lack of wit in Kamali’s constant patter, but his easy-going attitude ensures this never translates into discomfort.

Aesthetically, Jody Kamali’s One Man Variety Show has a certain shabby charm. Donning a mauve jacket splitting at the seams and changing in a scruffy red cubicle at the rear of the stage, there is a definite air of wasted elegance that if not intentional, is certainly appropriate. The cheapness of Kamali’s props is similarly apt, emphasising the show’s parody suitably.

For such a daringly original concept, there are actually very few moments in which the audience’s attention wavers. An act in which Kamali dresses as a banknote, dons a Trilby and plays with toy sharks is downright confusing and one in which he plays the part of his own father and dances to Turkish music is regrettably ill-judged. On the whole, however, Kamali amuses and entertains; the majority of his characters are well-conceived and his inherent charm is particularly winning.

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Jeremy Barclay

at 09:57 on 21st Aug 2014

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I can’t claim to have seen a variety show before – even in my youth it seemed like an art form from a bygone era. Jody Kamali’s One Man Variety Show however showed me exactly what I have been missing out on all this time, with his seven wacky and diverse characters warmly entertaining a mid-afternoon family crowd.

Kamali introduces his characters by way of an eighth, Frank Valentine, who seems like an amalgamation of every annoying quirk of TV talk show hosts – right down to speech impediments and sequined jackets. He pulls this off with flair, judiciously employing these quirks amongst his story telling in a manner that is instantly engaging for the children in the crowd, and satirical for the adults.

Launching into the first ‘guest’ of his show, the audience see his limbs fly out from behind the edges of the changing screen whilst he swaps his clothes. Promptly emerging from his cubicle-sized changing room, Kamali spoofs magicians like David Blaine with his ‘Man of Mystery’ character, looking intensely into the eyes of the audience. He has the kind of charm that can’t be taught, and carries the audience through his diverse characters.

It is Kamali’s charm, more than his writing, that makes this show. Although each of the characters he produces is different in profession or quirk (the Man of Mystery being quickly followed by a blood thirsty Vampire, for instance), there is a fundamental misplaced confidence or even arrogance that underlies each character that is instantly attractive to the audience – if not tragic.

Kamali falters a little in the middle of the show. In places, he seems to rely too heavily on audience participation, which is a risky strategy that does not always pay off. In particular, a ‘loan shark’ character dressed as a ten-pound note was completely impenetrable, as Kamaldi reminds us ‘don’t try to work it out’. The audience never loses faith in their loveable host, though, as there is a sense that the best is yet to come.

After a quick reprisal of the Man of Mystery role, Kamali unveils his greatest creation: a spiritual healer with magic nipples. While this is ingrained in absurdity, the expertly constructed awkwardness of the concept works entirely, as flush-cheeked audience members reluctantly take part in the ‘healing’ process.

A lot of people – including myself – come to the Fringe expecting to be shocked and challenged by hard hitting dramas or cynical comedy, but one could do a lot worse than to step away from all this and sample Kamali’s wholesome and fun show.

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