The Death Hilarious: Razer starts out with a pretty solid premise: since his Fringe debut in 2017, Darren J. Cole has become a medium. Capable of coercing ghosts into himself by making cute petting noises (ghosts are like kittens you see), Cole can transform into several different people for the wonder and entertainment of his audience. What follows is a wild ride full of oddball and outright crazy characters, as one spirit after another leaps into Cole to deliver wonderfully crass and bizarre comedy.
A real spark of originality and sense of fun
The problem is that, while this premise is strong on its own, Cole seems to lack confidence in his ability to piece together one straight narrative, so the show is composed mainly of set-pieces and character sketches. It lacks momentum, and struggles to find its footing. Is the show about Cole being a medium? Or is it about the Philip Schofield Memorial Tower Block, a location in which several of his characters preside? There’s no real flow to it so a lot of sequences feel disjointed. A lot of it is fun, but when the show is jumping from one character to the next without much rhyme or reason to it, it leaves you a bit confused by it all.
A fun highlight is the ghost of an ex-soldier turned cabbie, who fights the Battle of Custody, mumbling about how “kidnapping” is just a word on paper as he pulls the audience onto the stage for one final showdown with the police. There’s a lot of energy in this sequence, and you can tell that both the audience and Cole himself are enjoying it. The same goes for the initial sequence of Cole being possessed by John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe; the jokes land because there’s a fun knowledge both of the celebrities and our cultural understandings of them.
Where things struggle is when Cole attempts political commentary, specifically with a corrupt Labour MP and a mobster student accommodation owner, with neither character ever really working because neither hit hard at either institution. Cole seems conflicted, especially about Labour, with many of the jokes being directed at corrupt politicians in general, as opposed to the Labour Party itself. The characters themselves are fun, with Labour MP Jack Tandy’s attempt at going back in time to resurrect New Labour a particularly absurd and nicely crafted set-piece, but most of the mobster student accommodation jokes revolved instead around stereotypical student jokes as opposed to actual student accommodation exploitation. It leaves you wondering who’s the target here?
What holds it all together is Cole himself. When a sketch does have legs there’s a real spark of originality and sense of fun. Cole is a solid actor, as you quickly embrace every weird character he throws at you. For a show called Razer, it just needed that little extra edge, and a greater sense of purpose. It’s a show that ends with a bang, but what it needs to do is tear the house down.