Kieran and Joe may have gone from a trio to a duo since their last trip to the Fringe but fans can rest easy: the loss of a man doesn’t mean a loss of laughs. A sketch group of sorts, Kieran and Joe's show is again presented as a personal training course, this time a lesson in making and keeping friends, that sees the pair run through a number of friendship plays, demonstrative exercises and stories from their past intended to bring the audience together in friendship even as they fall apart on stage.
Return viewers know by now that Kieran and Joe have a penchant for audience interaction that goes beyond a bit of casual banter and Friends of Steel maintains that trend. Risk sitting in the front row and you may well be involved in lengthy segments of the show. Thankfully the reward for doing so is considerable: scenes involving audience members were consistent high points, particularly one excruciating sequence that saw Joe, attempting to demonstrate a healthy balance between friends and romantic interests, completely lose his calm during a Kieran-interrupted date.
If any facet of Friends of Steel has been compromised by the loss of a member, it's the show's dramatic through line. There are simply fewer relationship permutations available as a duo, the result being that Joe's increasing exasperation in the face of Kieran's relentless childishness and naivety seems a relatively simple dynamic compared to the more complex push and pull of shows of old. Still, for the most part Kieran and Joe's expert writing and joyous delivery sees them put the change of numbers out of mind with ease and serve up another delightfully silly, side splitting hour of comedy.