The Not Quite Quartet is confusingly named. They’re not even a trio: this is just a pair of guys performing musical comedy, interspersed with audience interaction that’s almost standup comedy. In fact, it often feels like a one-man comedy show with a guitarist brought in for the musical segments. Dale Campbell is described as a ‘reclusive, selective mute’ on the duo’s website: he’s certainly got no quibbles about playing his guitar(s) skilfully in front of the crowd, but he refuses to speak to us at all. It’s a gimmick that would be funny if it weren’t so unexplained.
Their show is called ‘Responsible Adult’. It’s about having kids and attempting to take life a little more seriously, although some fey material about movie spoilers and having an ex-girlfriend-turned-pornstar unbalances this somewhat. The comedy is intermittently funny; frontman Ricky Tart narrows down his audience by talking extensively about fatherhood and marriage, but he’s a friendly performer who establishes a connection with his audience. Campell’s loitering presence on the stage at these points never fails to feel odd. He smiles at Tart’s jokes and whispers comments to him, as if he is the puppet to Tart’s ventriloquist.
An improvised song linked together by three audience suggestions falls fairly flat, perhaps due to the volatile suggestion of ‘Scottish Independence’ as one subject alongside ‘car-crime’ and ‘cash for gold’ scams. Where the pair really shine is in a song called ‘Sadistic Statistics’, made up entirely of disturbing facts Tart has discovered online. It shifts up and down gears, as he moves between singing, spoken word segments and full-on rap, moving away from the statistics to ruminate rhythmically on death, fatherhood and nature. The song almost becomes deep, but Tart always breaks the would-be poignant moments with misdirection and subversion of audience expectations.
The only time Campell’s ‘mute’ trick really pays off is at the end of the show, when he is attached to a harmonica-holder with a difference. The screen of an iPhone, held in place in front of his mouth, shows a beatboxing set of lips, while on either side of the duo a pair of iPads display Ricky Tart’s comedic face joining in with harmonies. It’s a very clever segment that pushes the bounds of their act and actually makes them something different.
The pair save their best material for last, which builds the show up nicely, but the relative weakness of the early songs and the odd vibes the duo exude together on stage mean that The Not Quite Quartet’s hour is engaging and individual, but inconsistent.