Failure And How To Achieve It

Wed 15th – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Jessica Reid

at 23:40 on 15th Aug 2012

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'Failure and How To Achieve It' begins strangely, with Max Fletcher fumbling about the stage then stripping down to his boxers while only partially hidden by a sheet. As the performance I saw had already opened late, the audience were mostly oblivious to this being the beginning of the show, chatting amongst themselves. It seemed a bit messy. However, it sets the scene for the first joke, which is certainly entertaining and grabs the audience’s attention.

As I saw the opening performance of 'Failure and How To Achieve It', I found the generally high standard of the production especially impressive. There are some hilarious moments in this fast paced sketch show. The cheesy video projection with its dark twist is a highlight, as is the supermodel sketch and the mountaineering act. 00 Schezuan is another very witty section. The comedy varies from slapstick humour to verbal puns and repartees to simple jokes. Food is a key theme, recurring several times, and sometimes objects not conventionally perceived as edible are eaten too. Both Max Fletcher and Nick Davies act well and in this two-person production they do a lot of multi-roling, which often adds to the comedy in sketches where more than two characters are required. There are several characters which reappear throughout the show, which allows for interesting developments and also for the audience to form emotional attachments, both of which enhances the humour.

The one section which needs a lot of polishing is an interlude where they abandon their series of sketches in favour of a more casual chatting to the audience. This involves a lot of overlapping of one another and is somewhat like they are two stand-up comedians competing for the spectators’ attention. I perceived it as clumsy and not especially funny compared to the rest of the show’s slickness, as it was clearly unprepared. Perhaps they should fill this time with more sketches instead.

Max Fletcher and Nick Davies are clearly talented: they have good chemistry, are creative and know how to entertain. There are some wonderfully funny moments and for a free show, 'Failure and How To Achieve It' is a triumph and a treat.

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Pia Dhaliwal

at 00:41 on 16th Aug 2012

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I genuinely had no idea what to expect from Max Fletcher and Nick Davies’ 'Failure And How To Achieve It'. Which is just as well, as it turns out, because as they reveal early on in their act, their show blurb in the Fringe guide is completely unhelpful anyway. Far from being about two pastry chefs and their search for "the perfect marriage of cake and frosting" (although there is a five-minute sketch about cake, lime is featured way more prominently than frosting), what actually ensues is fifty-five minutes of initially bizarre yet ultimately hilariously surreal sketch comedy.

Although I do use the word ‘sketch’ fairly loosely. Fortunately, my use of the words ‘hilariously’ and ‘comedy’ is pretty spot on. Then again, so is my use of the word ‘bizarre’. The fact that prior to the start of the show, Fletcher and Davies strip off their clothes onstage while crouching behind a white sheet is only the merest hint of the madness that awaits.

Admittedly, the show’s opening is pretty odd, and it does take a few minutes for both the audience and the performers to really get into the swing of things. But I assure you that once they do, the results are repeatedly and side-splittingly hilarious. Both Fletcher and Davies demonstrate great talent, charm and comic timing through an array of characters, accents, and props – all the while clad in matching white bathrobes. From a pirate obsessed with his hostage to ambiguous Sean Connery statements to Southern American clones to the ghosts of Woody Allen and Robert Redford – it’s a wild ride, yet somehow the stories don’t matter nearly as much as the jokes, because the jokes manage to be funny anyway. There are puns and meta humour and topical jokes and pop culture jokes and faux-corporate sponsorship and parodies - and all of them are amazing. My personal favourite was a toss-up between a Chinese James Bond and a great 'Airplane!'-style joke involving plastic surgery.

I normally try and provide some background in terms of story, but as I’ve already mentioned, there isn’t much of a background to provide here. Characters developed over the course of several recurring sketches do eventually become part of a larger story with a great concluding joke, but honestly, 'Failure And How To Achieve It' is driven more by jokes than plot, and it’s more sketch comedy than any sort of overarching story. The show does fall a little short due to its slow start, which was not helped by Fletcher and Davies’ initial tendencies to interrupt each other a little too much. Fortunately, this might have been down to nerves, and as the show got off the ground, the two were able to play off each other far more easily and naturally, allowing their evident chemistry to add to their act.

Essentially, 'Failure and How To Achieve It' is a crazy yet thoroughly enjoyable experience, one that I strongly recommend to anyone who enjoys a bit of free comedy. If anything, it’s worth it just for the plastic surgery gag. I’ve decided that one’s my favourite.

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