The Hive is not the most pleasant venue to endure during a Fringe show. It is made all the worse if you have to wait an extra 20 minutes for a show that is delayed because of technical issues. By the time the show actually begins, the smell is overwhelming, and personally, the last thing I wanted by the end of this wait period was to watch a comedy show for another hour. In fact the thoughts at the forefront of my mind were counting down the seconds until I could leave and trying to stave off feelings of nausea. Whilst Chris Forbes’ Court Jester did help to distract me from these thoughts, the amount of showmanship and multimedia in the show did not particularly convince me that it was worth waiting for.
Rambling on without actually getting to a punchline
Court Jester is a rambling retelling of a year of Forbes’ life during the ages of 16-17 as an exchange high school student in America in order to improve his basketball playing skills. We're told from the start that the show is structured like a basketball game, but this is only apparent because Forbes tells us and every so often there’s a klaxon signaling the end of the first quarter, half-time etc, but otherwise this distinction is unnecessary. Considering the show and jokes within it are so anecdotal, all this does is disrupt the flow of the narrative, rather jarringly.
Forbes is very relaxed in his storytelling, and the pace of the show itself is quite slow, to the point where it seems less like a comedy show and more like someone is just talking at us for an hour. He takes time to explain every detail and really paints a picture, which really helps bridge the generational divide for those of us not familiar with life in the 90s. Whilst the descriptions are helpful, Forbes almost does this to a fault, rambling on without actually getting to a punchline.
This show is a great example of the straight-faced comedy that is quite prevalent in the UK. Forbes takes us through the cultural shock that he faced, leading to amusing anecdotes about Annie - his host family’s dog- to his American basketball coach, and it’s interesting to see the other side of that cultural dichotomy. There are moments where he does let go and allow himself to deviate from the structure, which is when his aptitude for comedy really comes through, but apart from an off-hand and cheap comment about the current war in Ukraine.
Court Jester is a show about being dropped head first into a new culture, keeping yourself open to new experiences and basketball; things that we need to hear and consider. The story is enough for it to be a strong show in itself, but Forbes’ reliance on unnecessary accouterments not only detracts from his words, but make the experience far more unpleasant than it needs to be.