“Are you ready to party?!” blares the PA at the start of the show and the audience roars in the agreement. Yes, four man comedy team Four Screws Loose definitely have developed a Fringe following, as demonstrated by their sold-out performances.
Whatever else you can say of Four Screws Loose, speed is always of the essence; this is light, fun and entertaining stuff and they perform it well.
Yes, they’re full of energy and clearly happy enough to show a bit of flesh during the necessarily quick costume changes between sets. They sing, they dance (enthusiastically, if not quite up to Strictly Come Dancing standards of choreography) and revel in the absurdity of some of their sketches. They’re like four enthusiastic puppies just desperate to be hugged - especially Joseph Elliot, who manages to carry gamely on with the show on crutches, having broken his foot (though we’re not told how or when), even putting them to good use in some of the more exuberant dance routines.
Now, I happen to be old enough to remember when television variety shows such as Crackerjack! and The Two Ronnies took popular songs of the day and wrote new ‘amusing’ lyrics to their melodies—for the most part, to be honest, this was more often ‘miss’ than ‘hit’. So to see it revived here is disconcerting; yes, there are some genuine laughs to be had with the opening series of warnings about misusing smartphones—all sung to tunes by Abba—but the problem is they are somewhat throwaway lines. Funny, but nothing exceptional.
Invariably, the cultural references these four guys latch onto are those to do with popular music and the trashier end of the television schedules. It soon becomes clear that many of Four Screws Loose’s musical sketches are grounded on inappropriate matchings of musical styles and situations: a polite village community choir like you’ve never heard them before; a death metal band with serious rehearsal issues; a battle of the musical stars done in the style of a Pokemon game. Two sketches do stand out, however. Firstly there’s “Jeremy Kyle: The Panto”, which sees its host (a satanically dressed Richard David-Caine) and Prince Charming (possibly Conan House’s best role in the show) questioning a sluttish Cinderella (Elliot) about allegations that she’s been sleeping with Buttons (Thom Ford). Then there’s the genuinely clever retelling of the Nativity Story, “sponsored by iTunes”, which with its incredibly fast-cutting between a host of familiar songs (a hell of a copyright payment, unless they’re crossing their fingers and claiming “fair usage”) is a consistent delight.
Whatever else you can say of Four Screws Loose, speed is always of the essence; this is light, fun and entertaining stuff and they perform it well. But beyond remembering having a good time, not much of the show lingers in the memory afterwards.