Returning from deepest darkest 1998 are Canadian comedians Craig Campbell, Glenn Wool and Stewart Francis with a showcase of their comic abilities. The Lumberjack shows seem to be a frame for their careers – little known in the ‘90s and now stars of such programmes as Mock The Week and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow. Consequently expectations are significantly higher than for their first performance.
The opening of the show did not instil much confidence. Craig Campbell is a personal favourite, but his role in the act was relegated to compere, minimising his time to perform a proper routine. His chatting with the audience was all too frequently dull and the little time he had to deliver a set was taken up by jokes that he has been using for the last few years. It smacked of laziness and was incredibly disappointing. This does not stop his physical comedy being strong, however, and his manic energy is as infectious as it has always been.
Glenn Wool is a strange character. His manner is phenomenally bizarre and he is far from likable, but his material is edgy and has very strong timing. Treading a fine line between humour and horror, Wool’s complete commitment to acting through his occasionally nightmarish jokes ensures that the audience is never alienated. Less appealing, however, were his preachy cheap shots at the banking community. Unfairly tarring everyone with the same brush, Wool makes sweeping generalisations designed to be nothing more than populist tub-thumping with little artistic merit to commend them.
In a surprising twist of events, guest Lumberjack and masquerading Canadian Fred Macaulay made a welcome appearance in the show. It is devastating that he is not a permanent addition to the performance, as his delivery and material are both well observed and frequently hilarious.
Last to step up to the mic is Stewart Francis. How anyone can come up with so many one liners is a mystery, but somehow not a single joke manages to fall flat. His puns are constructed with panache and he has complete control over the laugh/groan ratio. After twenty minutes, however, the routine started to flag from its repetitive nature and it was a good thing that it did not last any longer. For a snippet such as this, though, it is the perfect length.