In BOLSTOFF: A Modern Actor’s Introduction to Advanced Contemporary Performance the lads from Wicker Socks (Fionn Foley, Michael-David McKernan and Ronan Carey) help guide us through the various acting methods of the much-maligned Hungarian master of bad acting. Using the notebooks they bought at auction they chart various techniques that all budding actors need to get ahead in the tough world of auditions, stage and screen.
It’s densely layered and there are more gags on show than your average Netflix special.
The central premise for this comedy show is so simple that many will be kicking themselves that they didn't think about it before. It is a great springboard for ideas and allows the lads to have a good range of vignettes but not too broad for them to lose sight of the core idea. Each section deals with a specific acting technique like getting into character or voice work. No technique wears out its welcome and the pace of the show is delightfully fast.
It’s a very tight hour and there isn’t a lot of flab during the running time. Some sections feel like they don’t have clear defined conclusions and some comical threads feel like they are left floating in the ether but it could easily be argued that this is done on purpose.
During the workshop, there are little character arcs that pay off nicely and it works well to help bring tensions within the group. This extra layer is not needed to make the show work and many would forgo it but it really helps it stand out. There is a great dynamic within the trio and the constant ebb and flow of petty witticisms sets a pleasing rhythm.
The internal logic that is set out at the beginning of the show is never broken and shows an incredible amount of either forethought or intuitive nature. Even with the stupidity that plays out on stage, the ever-present character of Bolstoff seems real and it is easy to forget that he is entirely fictional. It is grounded in the tall tales of larger than life characters like Brecht and Stanislavski and for people that regularly have to suffer through am-dram, there is enough spot on swipes that there is a lovingly cathartic feeling to proceedings.
Even though it is clearly well scripted it never feels like it and that is a key ingredient in good comedy. It’s densely layered and there are more gags on show than your average Netflix special. It’s either been workshopped to surgical like precision or hectically slapped dashed together, either way, it is brilliantly put together.