Three-time Fringe veterans Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon treat the Pleasance Baby Grand with an energetic and slightly delirious hour of comedy that manages to acknowledge its debt to its spiritual forebears whilst at the same time spinning off in some very strange directions.McNeil and Pamphilon take the straight man funny man schtick of the Morecambe and Wise school and stretch it to its very limits. Their self-titled show is presented as a kind of relaxed improv littered with short skits to cleanse the palette, but the pair’s snappy exchanges and positively explosive chemistry proves it to be the result of writing and performance of uncommonly high precision.
The short skits themselves often lean a bit too heavily on their conceit, and once or twice the punchline was a little weak or telegraphed.However, what really makes the show come into its own is the relationship between the two performers, the exploration of which forms the spine of the hour’s performance and a pleasantly unexpected bit of dramatic narrative.
The show kicks off with a little song that sets up the pair’s respective personae: Steve the dutiful jobsworth from Milton Keynes and Sam the bartending slacker with a London bedsit. Having established the characters, the pair go out of their way to undermine and subvert their assumed roles as often and as weirdly as humanly possible. That these gags work so well is testament to the work put into the earlier, ostensibly innocuous exchanges.
McNeil and Pamphilon’s blend of slick banter and physical comedy works excellently in their small-room, no-stage format, and are heartily recommended to any students of comedy history, for whom the show is easily a four-star experience. Otherwise it might be slightly more challenging than one would expect from a mid-afternoon show, but there’s enough great material to make the fee worthwhile.