Pity Laughs: A Tale of Two Gays

Thu 3rd – Sat 5th August 2017

reviews

Kathryn Tann

at 09:36 on 6th Aug 2017

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‘Pity Laughs: A Tale of Two Gays’ is undoubtedly a tear-jerker, but not in the way a piece about parental death and hidden sexuality might imply. The only tears in this audience were in fact tears of laughter. I think that the best way to explain the sort of wit you can expect from ‘Pity Laughs’ is to compare it to Cards Against Humanity. Anyone who revels in the dark humour of the game will find themselves in stitches over this pair’s jokes, but those of a more sensitive comedic disposition may find certain moments a touch too much. And I probably wouldn’t recommend attending with your parents.

The central character's, Mark and Will, relationship with the audience was both direct and familiar, yet it never felt awkward or invasive. Their relationship with each other was just as commendable. The way the two played off one-another was so natural that it was clear from the offset that this friendship was not one of the fictional parts of the play. Another reason why the duo worked so well was the juxtaposition between the two. Mark’s calmer style (for the most part) and news-reader voice combined comically with the much camper and more flamboyant Will. In want of a better phrase, they completed each other, and reflected many close friendships in that much of their interaction was formed of insults. The insults being largely related to the death of Mark’s parents, it becomes worth mentioning that this is a rather dark comedy. Will, for instance, told sections of a fictional story in-between Mark’s discussions of his actual life. These fictional chapters were very well written, and in a mock story-book style, but were certainly not for the faint-hearted. The majority narrated graphic descriptions of sexual encounters, which admittedly, though crude, were horrifyingly funny. Will’s character certainly pushed the boundaries in this department, clearly revelling in his ability to cause discomfort. Mark, however, pushed boundaries himself in making so much out of two facts: his homosexuality and his status as an orphan. These would come up in almost every sentence it seemed, and whilst this could be seen as over-playing, he just about got away with it because it was so ridiculously over-played that it became funny again. You couldn’t help but laugh, no matter how guilty you felt for doing so.

This is not to say that every joke was crude, or even that every joke was funny. The occasional quip did let the side down a little, but these were a drop in the ocean considering how much laughter erupted overall from the audience. I’d also like to mention Jamie ‘the tech guy’, whose appearance on stage was a brilliant addition. Despite this sea of wriggle-worthy black comedy, the end did bring a glimmer of sincerity on the two topics from both performers. Once the show was over and those tears of laughter could be wiped away, one couldn’t help but wonder if they should be tears of sadness instead. Nevertheless, Pity Laughs is wickedly funny, if a little emotionally confusing, and certainly worth attempting, especially as the profits are going to two very worthy charities.

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Helen Chatterton

at 13:49 on 6th Aug 2017

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‘A Tale of Two Gays’, featuring university friends Will Dalrymple and Mark Bittlestone, with the occasional appearance of their speccy tech guy James, is not for the easily offended. This is unsurprising when you consider that fifty percent of the show consists of dead parent jokes, and the other half an amalgam of graphic sex jokes, gentle social satire and a hint of audience participation. Performed in Just the Tonic at The Caves (Venue 88), a fun atmosphere is set up before even entering, with people spilling out of bars onto the street, and producers trying to pull in last minute punters. The performance space itself gives an intimate sense, crucial to the success of the show. What’s more, the show is a “pay what you want production”, with proceeds being split between two charities, Cancer Research UK and Just Like Us.

Much of the subject matter is vulgar, daring, often taboo, and treads the line of being horrifically offensive, but the dialogue was incredibly well written and professionally executed. As a result the majority of the audience was led to disregard any initial reservations and appreciate the humour. Part of the charm of this production is that it gives you permission to laugh at things you wouldn’t normally find appropriate. This was aided by the immediately likeable characters of Dalrymple and Bittlestone, who complemented each other well. Personally, I am excited to see what these two do in the future, and to see if they can find even more jokes on the subject matter.

It is a merit to the show that the audience, a mixed crowd, was laughing consistently throughout the hour-long performance. Whilst it quickly became predictable that Bittlestone would be making jokes on being a gay orphan, the jokes themselves were innovative. Additionally, some of Dalrymple’s gags were uncomfortable to hear, yet he still captured the attention and applause of the audience. Any jokes that were not immediately funny in and of themselves were made so by added gesticulation from Dalrymple and Bittlestone.

In spite of their success in drawing out the funny side in everything, given the often sexually explicit subject matter I would agree wholeheartedly with the age recommendation of 18+, and much like watching ‘The Inbetweeners’, this is not a show I would want to go to with my parents. Indeed, the show's most offensive joke, involving masturbation and Bittlestone’s dead mother, proved too much for a small number of the audience, who left, and not so surreptitiously. However, both Dalrymple and Bittlestone dealt with this well, acknowledging it and making a joke out of it as opposed to ignoring it. For those willing to put aside the traditional ‘rules’ of comedy, ‘A Tale of Two Gays’ is a good natured and entertaining performance.

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