EFR - Reviews of Mulhollandland (Work in Progress)

Mulhollandland (Work in Progress)

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Naoise Murphy

at 08:58 on 21st Aug 2016

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Patrick Mulholland’s solo show promises weirdness, and it delivers. The entire show is an exercise is surrealism, taking satire and social commentary to a whole new level of oddness.

The show is presented as the 'National Variety Performance of the Glorious People’s Republic of Mulhollandland', a totalitarian communist state. As an idea, it works, even if it is not hugely original.

The central character is a beleaguered policeman attempting to ensure the show runs smoothly, ideologically speaking, with the "help" of regular phone calls from a shadowy government figure. Mulholland plays an increasingly absurd cast of characters - the performers at the variety show - with an impressive collection of silly hats and even sillier accents.

‘Mulhollandland’ is advertised as a work in progress, and this is probably a good thing. The show could definitely be a lot more polished. Tech problems delay the start and seriously hamper the flow throughout (the projections are worth it in the end, but could also be used to greater effect). As this is a Free Fringe event in the basement of a pub, the audience are forgiving, the mood casual and good-humoured, and his technical woes even rather endear the comedian to the crowd. It doesn't make for a very slick show however, justifying the work in progress disclaimer. This is something easily resolved, which would take Mulholland’s performance to the next level.

Many of the sketches could be tightened up considerably. The ‘ghost cow’ piece, for example, is delightfully bizarre, but could easily be trimmed of some of its weaker lines. The final scene, in which the tone turned unexpectedly serious, also feels unnecessary. Political points are made much more effectively through satire and absurdist comedy throughout the show; there is no need to attempt to turn it into something more dramatic.

Mulholland is at his best with satirical socially-conscious material, which then veers off on surreal tangents. His opening montage of short critiques of British society (such as, ‘The Playground Banter of Eton’) is hilarious. Other highlights include ‘Sesame Street Tory Majority,’ the Angry Irish Man, a dramatic adaptation of ‘Mein Kampf’ and a train of thought which ended in a rendition of ‘Jerusalem’ to the tune of ‘Octopus’s Garden.’

Mulholland is likeable and self-deprecating, punctuating his show with wry meta-comments (‘this bit is the weakest bit’ or ‘it’s the same joke as before’) which add to the general enjoyment of the audience. ‘Mulhollandland’ feels like a trial and error process preparatory to a great final show. Definitely worth a look, it will only improve with time.

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Darcy Rollins

at 09:58 on 21st Aug 2016

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Patrick Mulholland seems like a very likeable guy indeed. While this may not initially seem like a requirement for a comedian, after seeing this rather dishevelled, low-tech performance I’m beginning to think there may in fact be an equivalent for the politician likeability test of “do I want to have a beer with this person?”. This occurs to me as, despite all the small errors in Mulholland's act, both myself and the audience do not seem to mind at all. While initially this sort of comment may appear an odd remark to make about a sketch show, the entire show is filled with such wacky warmth that I am of the firm belief it must be a reflection on the comedian.

Self-deprecation is a tricky thing. There has to be just the right amount or it is cloying. Luckily, in this show Mulholland executes it to perfection. Improvised comments such as “I’ve never had a front-row before!” to planned “Patrick Mulholland’s career: 2011-2016” on the screen contribute to the lighthearted atmosphere, which leaves both the audience and comedian incredibly at ease. This is a comedian who knows where he stands, and is extremely good-natured about it. This attitude informs his routine as it bounces from bizarre act to bizarre act with zero pretensions.

Mulholland's self-awareness extends throughout his routine. There is a comedy generator section, where audience members’ internet histories are scanned for comedic preferences. Hilariously, the combination of 'performance art' and 'left-leaning politics' leads to a 'Sesame Street Tory Majority' sketch. This involves Mulholland's character eating of pieces of paper inscribed with 'NHS' and 'civil liberties'. A dog-based David Bowie tribute is equally hilarious.

The routine dances with darkness here and there, but the sharp shifts between bizarre situations keeps it firmly in the realm of ‘wacky’, not ‘edgy’. Despite how enjoyable the show is, it is notable that I remember more of the atmosphere than many hilarious moments. This is a comedian with a charmingly dishevelled routine and, I believe, promise.

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