Review: Around the World in 80 Days

This review first appeared on the Ed Fringe Review website on 18 August 2015.

★★★★☆

They say that comedy is all a matter of timing, and if that’s the case then Blind Mirth should be congratulated. By playing their show at nine o’clock, they’ve acquire an audience just drunk enough to be willing to shout out interesting and outrageous improv suggestions, but not so drunk that the act’s sharp wit and playfully inventive style go unnoticed. An effortlessly brilliant, laugh-a-minute show, this is Fringe improv at its best,

The format is a show of two halves: the first a series of ‘short-form’ pieces, essentially a series of increasingly elaborate parlour games; the second, a ‘long-form’ piece consisting of interconnected sketches. All five of the performers (one member of the troupe was unfortunately taken ill) display a real knack for clever wordplay and physical comedy. The repartee with the audience, so often an awkward aspect of student drama, was handled beautifully, demonstrating the kind of spontaneity and willingness to go with the crowd that this kind of show lives or dies on. The games themselves were frequently surreal, rapid-firing and full of energy, and Blind Mirth manage to pull together in minutes material of the quality many comedians would spend weeks writing. These people clearly know what they’re doing.

The show’s few weaknesses arise as a result of the troupe not quite playing to its own strengths. The long-form second half, while largely solid, has nothing like the gravitas or manic energy of the freewheeling first half, and it’s hard not to detect a visible drop in the laughs per minute rate as the show rounds the fifty minute mark. To their credit, at last night’s performance the troupe seemed aware of this, and rounded things off with a sublime word game, but its conclusion felt like an expedient to try and leave the best impression, rather than a natural conclusion for the show. While a certain degree of variety is needed in a show like this, the decision to deliberately spend half of the show on weaker material looks odd.

But despite the fact that the show’s structure occasionally works against it, this is a superb comedy show. It demonstrates the self-awareness necessary to abandon jokes that aren’t working and adapt on the fly. The show ends with the phrase “If you enjoyed the show, please come again, it’s totally different. If you didn’t enjoy the show, please come again, it’s totally different.” Sound advice either way.

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