Harriet Kemsly and Richard Todd form this energetic odd couple as part of the Free Fringe.
Todd took the first half, furiously pacing around the stage like a caged animal; a tangle of erratic curls, self-doubt and nervous energy. Todd’s style is deeply self- referential, frenetic and agitated. He kicked off with a few cheesy and over-the-top one-liners, and went downhill from there, almost deliberately, it felt. It was difficult to concentrate on the quality of Todd’s jokes because they were delivered at such a volume that I couldn’t help resenting being yelled at for the entire set. He seemed to be employing the shock and awe approach to comedy, which in this case felt like walking head first into an icy and unrelenting head wind for 30 minutes. There were moments of deeply imaginative material and well-built concepts, but not enough to salvage the performance from the unnecessarily forceful delivery. Self-deprecation is fine if you’ve brought the audience on-side; if not, they just end up agreeing with the summary of your own ineptitude.
Kemsly brought considerably more charm to her half of the performance and shared some of the more amusing and unlikely adventures life has thrown at her to date, though a lot of the material stayed in very well-worn and safe territory, jokes about dating relatives, London riots and the difficulties of love. Her habit of following each joke with a self-satisfied old lady squint was amusing, though it wasn’t clear if she was affecting this as part of a character or genuinely found her own jokes comical. The effect was confusing; this trait should be scaled up to a full character or scaled down, since at the moment it leaves the audience unsure as to how to interpret it. Kemsly definitely has some stage persona that with a bit more development and some more original material could definitely get somewhere.