As Liverpool Comedy Festival enters its 14th year, this year it has launched Funny Looking Fringe which it describes as “fresh, funny and fine comedy with an alternative twist”. With the brilliant Arthur Smith as patron of this new addition to the Liverpool Comedy Festival it promises a great deal. All of the performance included in Funny Looking Fringe take place in the charming 81 Renshaw Street, cafe by day, supporter of theatre and comedy by night. Beautiful art was hung on the walls of this small establishment in the heart of Liverpool City Centre and there was certainly a buzz in the air before the show began.
We were ushered into a back room, more than twice the size of the cafe, for our introduction to the eponymous hero Thaddeus Bent. The strains of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells welcomed guests into the intermit space which was full to capacity, a very pleasant sight at 9pm on a Wednesday night. A change of music and a haunting melody welcomed Thaddeus Bent onto the stage. A man, a book, a microphone and a Capri Sun!
Bent is the nightmarish brainchild of brothers Rob and Oliver Bond. A grotesque composite of Withnail, Father Jack and Alan Partridge, Rob portrayed the Liverpool historian and storyteller Bent with a composed flamboyance that enhanced this eccentric character.
Bent is the teller of scare tales he purports to be true, that have a distinctly Liverpool flavour and feature landmarks and characters familiar to any Liverpudlian. The stories are creative, original, eclectic and down right bizarre but they were also wickedly funny. Featuring themes including a haunted shed in Speke and the rise of Marshmen in Mossley Hill, I couldn't help but wonder how on earth these stories came to be, but I was also thankful they had.
Like all great comedy, timing and details are key. The Bond Brothers have managed both perfectly providing hilarious specificity in the writing and perfectly timed delivery which left the audience roaring with laughter. An already established character, Bond has delivered Bents stories as part of The Legion of Doom sketch/comedy group and at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He also has a following on YouTube and even a book of his tales.
Occasionally pushing the boundary, but exactly as you would expect from any alternative comedy, Thaddeus Bent, Theatre of Fear was a clever, witty, sparkling plunge into murky waters and everyone in the audience, including me, were very happy to paddle in the depths!
If this is representative of Funny Looking Fringe, I suspect it has a very good look future.
Reviewer: Helen Kerr
Reviewed: 21st September 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★