On the second floor of The Caves, in an arched, brick room with streamers cascading down either side, stands Frank. He wears a Mr. Bean-synonymous suit and a pained facial expression. His outfit and his face forewarn us of the tone of the performance. Luke Smith’s persona Frank Foucault was at the Fringe with Weird Stuff (2016), in which the audience watched him indulge in an intimate relationship with a vase of flowers and were treated to a cup of tea before they left. Weird Stuff established Foucault as a kooky, stifled creature. Having worked on Frank Foucault: Shoes as a 'work in progress' last year, I highly anticipated the new, polished show.
Tense, awkward and frustrating - in all the right ways
Frank Foucault: Shoes is a shoe cabaret. You can expect to see most typical cabaret performance styles included in the set, performed by shoes. Be warned – this show may test your patience. Some elements rely heavily on the audience's capacity to laugh at ridiculousness and to let go of the expectation of intelligent humour. However, the show is baffling and daring and this confusion creates hysteria, giving Frank the comedic reception he deserves.
The show isn't greatly dense with jokes – the Frank Foucault experience is one made up of awkwardness, irritation and struggle, refracted as comedy. The show is an hour-long episode of Smith engendering Frank Foucault's social skills struggles. Focussing on the difference between affection and intimacy, he repeatedly returns to an anecdote of rejection that carries through some of the relationships depicted on stage.
Luke Smith’s show is sadistically entertaining, but this is occasionally taken to extremes as he self-deprecates his show beyond a light-hearted threshold. It seems that an intention of the Frank Foucault character is to be excessively awkward, and this awkwardness should be confined to Frank’s personality and not be allowed to diffuse into moments of the show which he appears to find lacking. Despite this, he remains the ultimate weird crush – romance appears an affliction and the discussion of personal relations becomes actively suffocating but he hammers it out.