I’m not sure what I saw on Sunday. I’m really not. Never have I been so baffled by a Fringe show, so dumbfounded and (inconveniently for this article) lost for words. If I were to pigeonhole the show in an attempt to contain the unsettling effects of its chaos, I suppose I would call it ‘comedy theatre’, albeit comedy theatre at its most bizarre.
For all of Lees’ ostensible lunacy, there was a sense that he had some underlying mission. Was the whole show an absurdist metacriticism of theatre? Or was it just a bloke having a particularly elaborate laugh?
For one hour, we watched Dan Lees release his inner child. Surrounded by props, he dressed up as a bishop, a country singer and some kind of New Age spiritualist, playing ridiculous versions of these typically serious characters. There was music, there were puns, there were deliberately stilted impersonations – but nothing was predictable. Each segment of the show was as surprising as the last.
One consistency in Brainchild was the high level of audience interaction. We were part of the show from start to finish, whether that meant going on stage, singing along, or eating one of his Mini Cheddars. Through repeatedly embarrassing us in front of strangers, Lees seemed determined to take us out of our comfort zones, and he succeeded.
After the nonsense, the relentless farcicality, we were left to question – what was the point of all of that? What did that all mean, if anything? For all of Lees’ ostensible lunacy, there was a sense that he had some underlying mission. Was the whole show an absurdist metacriticism of theatre? Or was it just a bloke having a particularly elaborate laugh?
Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe none of it matters. Maybe Lees wants us to think it matters, even though he knows it doesn’t. Maybe he wants us to realise that it doesn’t matter after thinking at first that it does matter, so that we come to think that things that seem to matter don’t matter after all.
I don’t know. In any case, we were entertained – and maybe it’s as simple as that.