Too often, fringe theatre can be overly serious and overly worthy. Sometimes you just need something that’ll make you grin from ear-to-ear. And sometimes that’s exactly what you get…
Big Ian, Little Ian and (Br)Ian – collectively known as Scales of the Unexpected – are the closest thing to Heat magazine in musical form that I’ve ever encountered. But just because it’s silly, doesn’t mean it’s stupid. The lyrical talent on display here is impressive and the spot-on satirical observations come thick and fast.
As you’ve probably guessed, a lot of their mockery is targeted at the world of celebrity but when a song is as cringingly, creasingly accurate as the Tribute to Take That or the Lady GaGa song it needn’t be too profound. And with a supporting playlist featuring tunes like the One hit wonder medley or the School of Literal Choreography, the show never has a chance to fall flat. For me though, the best numbers are the ones that take you by surprise. Brian’s Bio song, the story of a bit-part actor blowing his blurb in the programme is hilarious as is their celebration of the pure, clean lovesong which twists as its different parts cleverly mesh together…
My only complaints might be that, despite their skill, some of the show depends on rather lazy faux-kitsch. A male three-part vocal group is never going to seem rough and ready but it moments like their pastiche of Chess, the group push this a little far and the campness starts to feels a little heavy-handed.
It may simply be because this was a preview but it does also sometimes feel like some of the fun comes at the expense of some of the polish. The three stumble slightly over lines and props and the slightly confused silences that follow are conspicuous amongst the sparky flow that characterises the rest of the show.
However, this is saved from being a serious problem by a self-deprecating awareness of their roughness. By treating each slip-up as part of the fun, it begins to feel that way and you’re left with the feeling that they’re first and foremost mates having a great time, a feeling that only adds to the pleasure.
Camper than Christmas on ice but twice as fun. Fabulous.