Several years ago, a couple of wannabe stand-ups decided to do a Free Fringe show based around some of the odd things their respective fathers had said and done down the years. Joanna Griffin, on the other hand, decided to bring her dad – 73-year-old Irish builder Pat – to the Fringe. The nominal “excuse” is that, in the name of finding some quality time together following the death of his wife and her mother, they decided to swap jobs – Pat learning to be a comedian while Joanna tried to learn how to build a brick wall.
On occasions charming, at times touching, this is an enjoyable enough way to spend an hour – if only to get a free cup of tea.
As ideas go, it’s as wonderfully weird and wacky as any you might find in Edinburgh during August. There’s no doubt they go with it, not least with the set and props – bricks and cement included – but also by offering cups of “builders tea” to the audience as they come in. As an idea, this “feel the fear and do it anyway” show – Pat does love his motivational quotes, you see – definitely has genuine potential. It’s just a shame that it’s not quite yet fully realised. Simply put, Joanna is rubbish at building brick walls; while Pat might have some potential as a storyteller, but definitely has no sense of timing when it comes to rattling off one-liners. Which, unfortunately, is what he really wants to do.
The pair undoubtedly have a real chemistry, and it’s genuinely quite emotional when Pat, in particular, reminisces about a recent holiday they shared together. It’s clear that both, in their own ways, are still very much re-assembling their lives following the loss of the wife and mother who had been at the heart of their family. A woman who, undoubtedly, would have been horrified by the pair doing a show on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
While the show clearly has something it wants to say about the right and wrong times in life to make plans – and whether the idea of making plans is ultimately more reassuring than the actual plans themselves – there must be ways in which such concepts can be more effectively scripted into the piece. Also, when it come to the basics, both Joanna and her dad should really be miked up, as too often what they were saying was nearly lost beneath the loud music and cheering bleeding in from other performances in the building.
On occasions charming, at times touching, this is an enjoyable enough way to spend an hour – if only to get a free cup of tea. Nevertheless, it still has a work-in-progress feel to it; proof, if nothing else, that it sometimes takes more than just nine months to put a Fringe show together. Especially when half of the act is effectively a newbie.