Phill Jupitus: Achtung!/Acting!

Very much in the spirit of the Fringe, Phill Jupitus steps out of his comfort zone with a show of improvisational comedy that sees him inhabit two wonderfully diverse characters that come alive thanks to the prompts of the audience.

If you like improvisational comedy and are willing to play along with the joke, then prepare to have your flights of fantasy indulged by a master of his craft.

Jupitus takes on the role of Vernon Herschel Harley, an actor from the Alec Guinness school of the business in the first half, before he switches to play German WWII U-boat ace Korvettenkäpitan Kurt Schiffer, whose greatest achievement appears to have been that he sunk the Bismarck, despite that particular vessel being on his own team.

Achtung!/Acting! is a largely improvised show and over the course of an hour the two raconteurs discuss subjects that vary from, Star Wars, Bjork, Bambi, Dick van Dyke, Margaret Rutherford, Stingray, and Troy Tempest. These subjects are all dreamed up by suggestions from the audience and this gives licence to Jupitus to riff on imagined showbiz anecdotes.

Before he gets into character, Jupitus alludes to the previous shows which had not worked as well as he had hoped. On the evidence of this performance the idea works well enough. This is mainly because the audience try to play along with the conceit. It was helpful that this early afternoon show was post-lunch and a few of the more outlandish suggestions came as a result of cold drinks having been consumed by some of those present. Particularly those on the row in front of me, who laughed at their own suggestions and the interpretations in equal measure.

You can imagine this show not working if someone wants to upstage the performer, thankfully that wasn't in evidence today. Jupitus is a master in controlling his stage and anything that wasn't in the spirit of the show was batted away with ease. The predictable fat joke arrives when someone asks whether Vernon Herschel Harley had ever done a slim fast advert. He slips out of character to berate the person who asked that and it is the last time we get that line of questioning in the show.

The change of characters prompts Jupitus’ Harley persona to explain the nature of what a dresser does in the theatre. He invites, Nathan, misheard as Susan, to undress him and then transform him in the wonderfully absurd U-boat captain. This prompts a good level of innuendo and jokes at the expense of the willing volunteer.

The second half has a darker turn as you'd expect from such a comedy creation, but it is sprinkled with some surreal moments. We learn that Schiffer used to manoeuvre his U-boat up the Thames and moor it before catching up with English wife, this despite in the midst of World War II. This enables Jupitus to joke about a part of London that he knows well.

It's hard to predict what type of show you will get in the remainder of its run, that's very much depends on the type of audience that choose to watch this show. If you like improvisational comedy and are willing to play along with the joke, then prepare to have your flights of fantasy indulged by a master of his craft. 

Reviews by Paul Clark

Assembly George Square Theatre

Andrew Maxwell: Showtime

★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Angela Barnes: Fortitude

★★★★
New Town Theatre

Dickless

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 5 & 6

Phill Jupitus: Achtung!/Acting!

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus Up the Stand

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Lucy Porter: Choose Your Battles

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Like a hirsute Frankenstein, Phill Jupitus digs up and revives the two breakout stars of 2014’s You’re Probably Wondering Why I’ve Asked You Here, stage legend Vernon Herschel Harley and German WWII U-boat ace Korvettenkäpitan Kurt Schiffer. Over the course of a worryingly intimate hour, these two seasoned storytellers will edify, educate and entertain, with yarns, indiscretions and that most zeitgeisty of things: facts. Stagecraft, whales, the Golden Age of Hollywood, depth charges, Douglas Fairbanks, icebergs, Meryl Streep, puffins, the Teamsters, Admiral Döenitz… what won’t these guys talk about! Any historical accuracy entirely coincidental.