Olaf Falafel presents The Marmosets Of My Mind

Thu 3rd – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

James Tibbles

at 09:46 on 22nd Aug 2017

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The man behind this show is without doubt a competent entertainer, taking on the persona of Olaf Falafel in a comedy sequence that uses mockery of its own form to enhance a bonkers show about sandpaper, comedy and conkers. I could guide you to the Fringe Website where the show is labelled “absurdist” and described as “an hour of surreal stupidity”, but the fact I will have to refer to a man as Falafel throughout this review is already a pretty good indicator of the show’s absurd nature.

What Falafel lacks in true wit he makes up for with incredulous silliness and audacity. Even before the audience have sat down, Falafel interacts with audience members, calling individuals out and shepherding them to sit at the front. Fortunately for Falafel, his opening antics were enlivened by the late entrance of a man in a Viking hat. (Don’t you just love the Fringe?) The nervous energy in the room is eventually alleviated by the realisation that Falafel bucks a tendency in comedy to insult with what can only be described as wholesome, harmless mockery. If audience interaction usually has you recoiling into the back of your chair, it’d be best to stay clear of the front row.

The show itself is pretty much what it says on the tin: a collection of ‘marmosets’ released to a captive audience in the claustrophobic basement to The City Café. One dictionary definition of a small soft-furred South American monkey with “claws instead of nails” somewhat helps to sum up this comedy show. Falafel is like a humble monkey, but his comic hand lacks the attacking potential in the marmoset’s claws. Problems arise when Falafel uses self-awareness of his own absurdity as a get-out-of-jail-free card for landed jokes that fall flat. An insert of meta self-reflection can be an effective way to gain an audience’s trust, but the constant deconstruction of his own comedy is sometimes tiresome.

‘The Marmosets’ follow two structural frameworks which start funny, but get lost in bizarre videos of a shopkeeper and forgettable PowerPoint slides that Falafel parades as interesting pithy statements. A bullet-point list guides us through the rationale behind Falafel’s mind while the second strand of the act sees him rebuilding an 80’s pop band from members of the audience in which cleaning products replace real instruments. To be frank, the imaginary instruments of the Tweenies provides more amusement than awkward audience members bashing household items. But I guess that must be the art of absurdist comedy: we love to hate it.

The final “pudding” encore to Falafel’s show, however, provides hope that there is wit worth seeing underneath the wig and the gimmicks. A whistle-stop tour of ‘biscuitology’ uses types of biscuits to poke fun at British stereotypes in a truly original way. Relying on audience interaction, these acute one-liners of cultural relevance are a treat worth waiting for.

This final section suggests that absurdism is okay, but what a British audience really loves is a mildly intellectual joke rooted in cultural truth. Falafel teases this sweet spot, but never fully gains enough momentum to develop and sustain his golden material all the way through. ‘The Marmosets of my Mind’ will leave you confounded and entertained, but you might prefer the substance of a jammy dodger over this nice biscuit.

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Jacob Pagano

at 10:08 on 22nd Aug 2017

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The first thing I noticed when I entered the set of Swedish comedian Olaf Falafel was his incredible ability to engage an audience. As we waited for a latecomer, a friend of whom in the audience told us that he was wearing a Viking hat, Olaf led us in a chant of the ‘Jaws’ theme song. Almost on climactic cue, the Viking hat-wearing attendant arrived, and the audience erupted into laughter. Olaf, in characteristically absurd fashion, began playing a bottle of cleaning product (the so-called “Duxaphone Duck Master”) as if it were a saxophone. Mr. Falafel clearly had the spark necessary to take an audience out of their minds and into the beautiful pen of play.

The jokes that follow his musical opening are insightful, witty, and eclectic. Olaf is strongest, and seems to generate the best responses, when he focuses on petty life occurrences to which we all bear witness: he makes jokes, for example, on the evolution and increasing potency of cleaning products, on the joy in pushing the boundaries of a delivery-service’s radii, and on the absurdity of baking instructions and stuffed pizza crust

At his best, Olaf has much of the pleasant crankiness and wily energy of one of America’s greatest comedians, George Carlin. And, like Carlin, his comedy is incredibly existential: he uses metaphors like “Getting on the horse” to describe moments when his audience is on board with his humor, and he manages to joke about addiction by imagining an AA meeting in which the organizer is a Tetris fiend.

Olaf is also incredibly culturally conscious. He makes good use of video, and at times pretends that he himself is on a T.V. set. In closing bit, as he blows on his Duxaphone Duck Master and leads a group selected from the audience in a jazz performance (using audio from the projected screen), one feels that Olaf is channeling the comic powers of Jim Carrey of Bruce Almighty. Olaf can also play the role of circus entertainer.

At times, Olaf loses focus and becomes overly self-effacing, mocking himself and the audience when jokes don’t land. There’s no need for this: he’s simply too good of a comedian. I’d surely prefer his next thread of thought over an apology. There’s no doubt: the show is worth a watch, both for the laughs it sparks and the introspection it generates.

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