Sunday, August 23, 2015

Review: Invisible Dot Cabaret, Manchester International Festival

I can't really remember there ever being much good comedy at MIF before. This year it's like someone there woke up and remembered that it existed. And thank god they did. The Festival's onslaught of serious heavyweight highbrow culture (Three words: Hans Ulrich Obrist) needs a bit of leavening now and then. And of course there's a good audience for comedy in Manchester, so this was a shrewd move, though it's unclear how this fits in to the festival's all-new-work ethos, which has come to seem a bit like something that applies for big ticket items but not the gigs and performances booked around the edges. Yeah, okay, they've just got successful comedy night Invisible Dot Cabaret up from London to curate a run, but when they're putting on stuff this good, what do we really care? And with Edinburgh not long after MIF, it's likely that at least some of it was relatively new material as pretty much everyone we saw there was heading up north to do a show.

By all accounts we were lucky with the changing lineup the night we went; a friend who saw them another night earlier in the run said it wasn't that great. But we got James Acaster hosting the whole thing and starting off with a brilliant set that showed off his mordant wit and intensely likeable stage persona. He stitched the evening together beautifully and proved a very generous compere to the last. Following Acaster was a winning set from the excellent Gein's Family Giftshop, a hometown comedy trio that's clearly well on its way to a national profile. Things get pretty dark in their little world, and it's a twisted, uncomfortable universe that I'll certainly be looking to revisit at the earliest opportunity.

My favourite act of the night was the deeply weird BEARD (Rosa Robson and Matilda Wnek) who started off with a surreal, near-silent physical gag, and then moved into an astonishingly smart and nervy set that had the audience rapt. There's a lot of white space in their material; they use silence and tension in fascinating ways. Following them was Tom Basden, writer of The Crocodile which was also showing as part of the festival, Basden came onstage with a guitar and sang very silly songs and gently mocked Mancunians, all of which went over extremely well, bringing the audience back down to earth and sending us out into the night with a smile.


Enzyme said...

Yep: Beard were strange and excellent (though it's hard to see, based on this appearance, how their act could be expanded much further). As for Gein's Family Gift Shop, though... lord, they were dreadful. Too-clever-by-half undergraduate drivel. It comes as no surprise that they've got a spot on Sketchorama the joint second-worst programme to appear on Radio 4 ever.

Kate Feld said...

Holy crap, a comment! With someone expressing an opinion about something I've written! Sorry, I'm a little freaked out because this never happens anymore.

It was my first time seeing Gein's, and I really liked them. Not every sketch they did was insanely inventive, but I thought their stuff had a thread of awkwardness and discomfort running through it that worked for me. But I'm not one of those people who go to Manchester comedy nights week in week out, so you're probably a tougher crowd than me. Basically, if you can make me uncomfortable, I'm happy. That's not weird, is it?