Who remembers Kerplunk - that childhood board game of precariously balancing marbles on multi-coloured sticks? Kerplunk!, the 2018 Brighton Fringe show that shares this title, is also itself a balancing act: in this case between two experienced comedians, Julie Jepson and Josh Dillon. Jepson and Dillon, both Fringe veterans and Brighton dwellers, team up this year to explore the highs and lows of human existence. Each provides half an hour’s entertainment unpacking and exploring life – the weirdly wonderful and the wonderfully weird – to generally amusing effect.
Each provides half an hour’s entertainment unpacking and exploring life to generally amusing effect.
Dillon is a regular favourite on the stand-up circuit. His gruff, gravelly tones and intense stare penetrate and unnerve as his life observations are delivered with an unrelenting and dry, acerbic wit. His observations on students were particularly well-received. But his material is not for the faint-hearted and, at times, it’s very dark and close to the bone – one joke specifically left a couple of audience members uncomfortably shuffling in their seats. And, unfortunately, like the childhood game in this Kerplunk! sometimes the balls sadly drop. In this case undoubtedly due to first-night nerves. But despite this hiccup, Dillon recovered well, and his material is both solid and intelligent.
If Dillon is the rolling ball in the pairing, Jepson is the safety stick. This comedian looks at home on stage and both exudes confidence and radiates warmth. Charming her audience with her chummy style – Jepson quite literally toasted almost every audience member with a chink of her pint glass as she introduced her set. She set the right tone and the audience responded and warmed to this likeable Rotherham lass. A deserved 2017 Brighton Fringe award comedy nominee, Jepson took us by the hand and led us through the mundane and the quirky experiences of human existence – Lesbian Home Removals Inc, her mother’s misunderstanding of WTF, and a German/Irish version of “I’ve got a brand new combined harvester” (with audience participation!) to name but a few.
Jepson is the yin to Dillon’s yang: energetic v controlled, soft v sharp, expressive v deadpan, and this contrast serves as a useful basis for the offset and display of each performer’s unique style. Perhaps here a suggestion would be the order of the show – with Jepson clearly the warmer performer maybe she should have been the warm-up? This set order would probably have resulted in an audience better equipped to deal with, and more receptive to, Dillon’s darker material and caustic delivery.
Ultimately though, Kerplunk! is worth adding to your Festival viewing list: the cosy venue is a 32-seater intimate delight and Dillon and Jepson clearly share a closeness that will eradicate those initial first night nerves and make for a very enjoyable and solid, comedy Fringe experience.