With so many comedy double acts at the Fringe – many of whom are also middle-class white boys from London – Will Hislop and Barney Fishwick have their work cut out to stand out from the crowds. Unfortunately, on the day I saw them at least, they didn’t.
There is some good material here, but Hislop and Fishwick need to make some significant cuts and add more energy to their overarching narrative, in order to let these moments stand out
Their show revolves around the lifelong friendship between the two performers. We are introduced to two characters which they played when they were young, Norwegian pop band The Fjords. These two pop-singer characters, with their self-consciously dodgy accents, return throughout the show and start to reveal problems in the duo’s friendship. We see these troubles widen. The duo perform a series of sketches, including reminiscing about school trips, talent shows, and moves to drama school, through which Fishwick and Hislop either bicker or come together.
The material ranges from songs and biographical sketches to self-professed satire. Given that Hislop is the son of a man who is probably the most famous British political commentator, the audience cannot be blamed for having high expectations when the duo introduce these portions of the show. Yet the material within this which received the largest laugh was Hislop’s impression of Theresa May’s laugh. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good impression, but it was rather disappointing that the duo’s political material didn’t go much beyond a meme. Their most successful jokes include those which play up to the stereotypes and parody caricatures of themselves. In their school’s talent show skit, for example, the performers have a sudden injection of energy and their evident enjoyment is infectious: many of the ‘bad’ jokes told by their younger selves get the biggest laughs from the audience (one about Italian ecigarettes is my personal favourite).
However, on the whole, the moments between skits are flabby and lacking in pace, so that when they do tell good gags (and there are a lot of good moments) they are lost to the too-hot room. Perhaps Fishwick and Hislop were particularly tired on this day, and I’m all for giving them the benefit of the doubt. However, it felt that there was room for at least another couple of sketches to allow them to ramp up the pace and enthusiasm and still feel the eponymous hour.
Giants made it so that the success of the show was riding on audience investment in their relationship. The audience were most on board with the moments at which we were shown the genuine history of their friendship: photos of the two when they were young elicited smiles and awws from the audience, and these moments make them feel different to other troupes. However, somewhat ironically, there wasn’t a sizzle of chemistry between the two friends. Even in the moments where the two are meant to be close, we don’t feel that connection - and this means that when the performers try to play up to the emotions of hating each other, there isn’t enough of a change to provoke laughs.
There is some good material here, but Hislop and Fishwick need to make some significant cuts and add more energy to their overarching narrative, in order to let these moments stand out. For now, these Giants have a lot of growing to do.