Paul F Taylor is like a puppy: he has very fluffy hair, oodles of energy and even when he slips up, we still like him. Indeed, despite points during the show that seemed like he was chasing after his own tale, oblivious to the audience around him, he never lost our attention, and continued to be rather loveable throughout.
Taylor introduces his show by telling us that he purchased The Greatest Show In the World Ever for six thousand pounds – better than the typical eight grand comedians will spend on a run at the Fringe – after a life-changing encounter with a mystical gentleman with a magic eye and a foreign accent (a back-packer, he presumes). Supposedly containing this winning formula was a not-so enigmatic cardboard box that sat in front of us throughout the show and by the end I really was pining to take a look inside. Taylor’s framing device is a smart one and enhanced by a very amusing Japanese-apprentice bit; charmingly, this indicated Taylor’s modest self-awareness of the embryonic nature of his act.
This awareness meant that some of his observational gambits were, by his own admission, not quite realized to their full potential. For example, there were some very funny reflections on the distinctly British phenomenon of jumper-politics (on chair means reserved, on shoulders means posh), and the analogous queuing tendencies between ants and humans. But these ‘observations’ were rather hard to identify with for the average punter and while entertaining, his caterpillar impression was perhaps a little too out-there to achieve the kind of ‘that is so true’ reaction that he is looking for.
The final section was shaped around a confrontation between the many different characters he introduced within the show, which crystallised both the best and the worst aspects of Taylor’s act. Impressively, he managed to maintain a sense of coherence despite the incredibly complicated nature of speaking to oneself in seven different voices, from seven different positions. Moreover, he had us laughing the whole way through, and the crowd was behind him all the way. However, there were moments when the reasoning behind it all was just too strained; I couldn’t help but wonder why a caterpillar would ever talk to a jumper with a Welsh accent, for example.
However, though The Greatest Show in the World Ever is not quite there yet, I have confidence that Paul F Taylor will get there eventually; as part of PBH’s Free Fringe, Taylor’s show is definitely worth checking out.