Not long ago, the Rubberbandits were just a couple of schoolboy pranksters. It’s not difficult to imagine. Larking about on stage, the musical Irish comedy duo are cheeky and reprehensible, but also obviously clever and perversely appealing. The sort of youngsters teachers hate for wasting their potential. Their schooldays behind them, Dave Chambers and Bob McGlynn are now being given a stage to flaunt their mischief. Unsurprisingly, they’re loving it.
Menacing and iconic with their topless, skinny white bodies and concealed faces, the Rubberbandits have something reminiscent of Alex and his droogs. Masks are always unnerving, and the duo’s plastic bag balaclavas are no exception. Nor is their threatening appearance much deflated by the duo’s cheery admission that their trademark plastic is both inconvenient and uncomfortable - one frequently bending over to shake out the ‘sweat pools’ on his chin. Why the bags? ‘It makes us irresistible to the ladies,’ they tell us. ‘Women love shopping, and we look like shopping.’ It’s not the only moment of wit.
Their songs are occasionally unexpectedly sweet, and often horrible. Smiling Ivan details a friendship struck up in a playground with a boy who fell off his swing. Its lyrics are touching and uncharacteristically PC - including the line, ‘I’d love to get him drunk but he’s only six years old.’ The duo’s schoolboy charm makes the ditty believably innocent, though bandits themselves can’t seem to agree on this. While one defends its integrity, the other complains that it’s ‘all sexy-paedophile-y.’ In the end, it’s difficult to know which to believe.
Most of the time there’s no such ambiguity. A song about a girl in a club - There’s no way I’m riding you/ Unless I’m on bags of glue - is downright horrible. Liar liar Danny Dyer is hate filled and garish, Spastic Hawk puzzlingly faux-naif. Despite their ugly direction, though, there’s something intoxicating about the Rubberbandits’ unrestrained energy. When they played Horse Outside - the Youtube hit that launched them - the energy was at its most infectious.
You won’t find cries of ‘Up da RA!’ or ‘Feel that base in your fanny!’ anywhere else at the Edinburgh Fringe: watching Rubberbandits raving under pink spotlight transports you to a totally different kind of festival. If you let your eyes pan out though, we’re still firmly in Edinburgh. Shouts of ‘One more song! One more song!’ weren’t enough to convince me that the mostly static audience, though enjoying it, was partying with the abandon invited by the Rubberbandits. One day, perhaps.