Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael is the kind of production I come to Fringe to see: a very specific, niche show, seemingly outside of my interests, that is found to be a surprisingly charming hour of entertainment.

The loudest laughs coming from very unexpected places

In 1987 a devastating storm hits the south-east of the UK - if you are using flexible definitions of both ‘devastating’ and ‘storm’. Hold onto your handkerchiefs – the storm is so fierce that it may have dislodged a roof tile. Gasp! Protect the children! Endearingly buffoonish Met Office Meteorologist, Michael Phish, created and performed by Mr R Layton, is all ready to raise the alarm and protect the British public, but finds himself prevented by a conspiracy. Through secret tapes found years later, we discover the truth.

Layton is very convincing as the exiled weatherman. In his yellow jacket and red trousers, Michael, the lefty militant meteorologist, feels more like a 70s children’s presenter, looking lost in the noir trench coat and trilby of the confessional videos. He is much more at home bumbling around the met office expounding the importance of meteorology. Layton has a knack for taking unexciting events, and building them up with excitement and a fervent energy, raising the stakes, and pulling the audience along with him, in spite of the mad surrealism of the situation.

The show has a fascinating brand of off-kilter humour. The loudest laughs coming from very unexpected places. The writing is slick and witty (I’m still not sure how we got to “gay erotica” but it happened). Though be careful: blink and you will miss it. Layton enjoys having fun with theatrical conventions, at points taking a pause in the show to explain the difference between an aside and a monologue. Some of the other charters in the show are taken on by members of the audience, one of which requires more participation than others.

However, the show takes a while to get going. Starting off with flashbacks and with the found tapes sub plot drags out the beginning unnecessarily and confusingly leaving the audience in the lurch. It does give them the chance to hear the deliciously horrible screeching earpiece noise twice though. Same again with the ending, the wind falls out the sails at the final denouement which was a disappointing for such a weirdly lovable story.

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The Blurb

It is the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-seven. The south-east corner of the Kingdom of United has been deflowered by a vengeful and unforgiving storm. Celebrated meteorologist and rising national treasure, Michael Phish, foresees its arrival but chooses to tell a different story. Many years later, video footage (in encrypted Betamax) is pulled from the rubble of the shamed and discredited Met Office, revealing the reasons behind this treasonous transmission. With an all-star (fore)cast of weather-related personalities from the 1980s, this show does contain scenes of a dubious and volatile nature. This is Michael Phish.