Through their use of improvisation and mime, backed with a fantastic live band (The Glue Ensemble), Cariad and Paul bring to life a series of hilarious stories, based solely on one word from the audience. The word the pair chose from the audience’s suggestions on this day was ‘sparrow’ and their subsequent discussion of the word before their story began, touching upon A Doll’s House, where Torvald refers to Nora as ‘my little sparrow’, and Anna Karenina, inspired the dual narratives which played out before us.
Although this story in particular indulged in stereotypes, its sending up of tropes associated with these kind of novels made for the best scenes in the show.
The first of these was in the style of a great Russian novel, concerning a man who cuts down a tree every twelve years, while the second took the idea of a doll’s house and ran with it; at the hospital Dr. Donald, played by Paul, had made a doll’s house for Katherine’s birthday, and things quickly spiralled out of control from there, with the house destroyed, a patient painfully cured of appendicitis and an affair beginning between the two doctors.
A great deal of Cariad and Paul’s comedy comes from their use of mime, and the music that accompanies their actions adds greatly to this, serving as a soundtrack to the action. Without saying anything at all, the pair perfectly bring across their characters to the audience, whether they be a flustered, awkward doctor or an aged, wise grandmother. The pair also play multiple roles and, although this is to be expected when there are only two of them telling the story, the versatility of the pair in their voices, mannerisms and accents is quite something to behold, even if sometimes these don’t quite work.
‘I don’t think I can keep this voice up,’ Paul says at one point; at another point there is a mix-up with a new character’s name, but the pair’s explanations for these mistakes, their meta-theatricality and self-deprecation, adds to the charm and quirkiness of their performance. A particular highlight was when Cariad left the stage so that Paul had to play two characters at once, doctor and patient, which he managed with surprising ease.
As well as portraying a variety of characters, Cariad and Paul are also able to make their dialogue fit the setting brilliantly, despite some occasional and hilarious anachronisms and topical references; one fantastic example was in the story set in Russia, where the woodcutter asks after his love interest’s mother. ‘How is your mother?’ he asks. ‘Dying,’ comes the deadpan reply. ‘As are we all,’ the woodcutter reflects, with a weary sigh. Although this story in particular indulged in stereotypes, its sending up of tropes associated with these kind of novels made for the best scenes in the show.
On a number of occasions, it seemed that Cariad and Paul found it difficult to refrain from laughter themselves and, although some could say this is unprofessional, it is unsurprising considering the hilarity of the worlds they managed to create, and the raucous reaction of the audience. With a new series of stories created every night, Cariad and Paul: A Two Player Adventure is a show I would highly recommend, for an hour of laughter, versatility and possibly a forest of signpost trees.