Claptrap, as in absurd or nonsensical talk, sounds like a perfect starting point for an interesting Fringe night. That was what I expected entering the Spiegeltent on a blustery Tuesday evening. The blurb promised ‘absurdist turns, leaps of faith, and very high jinks for lovers of oddball’. What it delivered, though, was quite a conventional comedy/art cabaret night. Nothing wrong with that – I just expected, well – something stranger and a bit more rehearsing might have been wise.
The closest we got to an actual absurdist performance was the totally bonkers Marion Dupree, rolling around the stage, clucking like a chicken and looking for her imaginary friend Sasha.
The well-established Happy Clap Trap club is usually held at the Marlborough Pub & Theatre, this being a one-off Brighton Fringe special. The change of venue wasn’t a great success. On the night, the Spiegeltent was half empty and very cold which affected the audience’s enthusiasm to respond to the acts. The whole show just felt out of place - needing the warm and cosy pub surroundings to work. Timing was another issue that watered down my enjoyment. The one hour show felt very rushed and frankly too short for seven acts plus interval numbers. The MC kept mentioning the time constraints throughout the show and looked genuinely concerned when the show run overtime.
On a more positive note: some of the acts were really quite good. Many of the absurdist elements were down to MC Matt Rudkin’s short intervals between the acts, accompanied by a delightful time-keeping moth that fluttered around with her spider sidekick when a performance exceeded its allocated timeslot. The closest we got to an actual absurdist performance was the totally bonkers Marion Dupree, rolling around the stage, clucking like a chicken and looking for her imaginary friend Sasha. My other favourites included Phil Lucas’ explosive and very sharp-tongued stand-up number with great use of AV equipment, Phil Jerrod’s sarcastic comedy about the hardships of country life and growing a beard, and a wonderful physical comedy act by Lucy Hopkins as a clueless cabaret singer.
But as a show, the Happy Clap Trap didn’t deliver for me. I don’t think this was even close to ‘a medley of Brighton’s finest acts of strange entertainment’. But some of the acts were excellent and the night served well as a showcase for fresh comedy talent. And someone really needs to book that moth; she was the real star of the night.