Pun Run is a simple idea: a load of comics and other acts (including a sketch group, musical numbers and the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre) deliver short, condensed sets of puns, wordplay and other minor fetes of linguistic ingenuity. For one time only, it hit the Fringe with everything it has, as a charity gig in aid of Scope.
Curator and master of ceremonies Bec Hill warms up the crowd by getting us to practise both our laughter and our groans. It may be the only point in the show when the two are so clearly separated, nearly every line in this rapid-fire triumph of an evening eliciting equal levels of volume and excitement.
The show finds an ingenious way to push aside the constraints of narrative and theme, driving itself forward by form rather than content. It not only grants the audience ‘permission to laugh’, but fervent expectation to do so right from its premise. This is because puns offer a tightly wound spring of potential energy, for which laughter – and groaning – is the involuntary release.
The sets are at their best when either ingeniously detailed or relentlessly elaborate. The best at the former is Josie Long, whose pun-based review parodies are exquisitely formed. The most wonderfully excruciating of the latter are the Beta Males, whose Bee-based pun sketch could only get funnier, as they gluttonously piled on the puns in honey-dripped opulence.
For me the musical set by Axis of Awesome didn’t quite gel with the rest, their gimmick of replacing words in popular songs lacking the packed complexity of pun-based material. But I was in a firm minority. For many in the crowd it seemed to be the highlight of this joyful, chaotic pageant of linguistic trickery.