The Voyage of The Narwhal

Grab your sailor’s hat, pick up your cutlass and pop on your sea legs because the Narwhal is here; the grandest ship the world has ever seen, and like LSD in the 60s - “if you’re not on it, you’re probably a loser”. With a touch of Monty Python about it, The Voyage of the Narwhal is a salty sea tale told through the wonderfully absurd sketch comedy of The Awkward Silence.

Thankfully for a style of comedy that is as pacey as it is absurd, there is a narrative running throughout that holds the sketches together.

Staged in the appropriately damp Caves below Just the Tonic, The Voyage of the Narwhal is the first Edinburgh show by Alexander Fox, Vyvyan Almond and Ralph Jones, guest starring David McHardy on the piano and directed by Nick Davies. From the first moment, as Almond’s gnarled captain grabs the wheel, steers his opulent ship away from Portsmouth and relays the filthy basis for his hatred of icebergs, it is clear that the show is one born from a hysterical friendship (probably involving alcohol). Aptly for a group containing Fox, described by The Oxford Student as "the best character comedian at the university”, the play’s strongest suit is its variety and depth of pitch perfect caricatures. From the hopeless dreamer to the Soviet anarchists, from hapless ‘70s comedian to the middle-American floozies, every costume is not only well filled, but tailored with a distinct style of comedy. Probably the funniest of these transformations is the modern sailors, whose progressive sea shanties capture the same gently scathing humour as James Garner’s Politically Correct Bedtime Stories.

Thankfully for a style of comedy that is as pacey as it is absurd, there is a narrative running throughout that holds the sketches together. As the world watches the glorious vessel make its maiden voyage across the Atlantic, trouble brews within the mind of the jilted Captain and the diabolical schemes of the trench coat-wearing communists. Is the Narwhal’s first venture one of glory, or is it one destined for the bottom of the ocean?

Of course the answer to this question is largely irrelevant in a show far more concerned with having fun and showcasing the troupe’s breadth of ridiculous accents. At times the gloriously self-indulgent affair got too much for Fox who creased into giggles, clattering the notion of suspended disbelief already made redundant by Jones’ announcement “I’m too immersed in the characters and plot to notice such trifling ecological inaccuracies.” As a plucked soundbite this sums up the hour relatively well. It is a ramshackle, self-indulgent show, unafraid to poke fun at itself and brought together by a bunch of friends enjoying each other’s company. 

Reviews by Milo Boyd

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The Blurb

The Voyage of The Narwhal is about a massive passenger ship and the eccentrics aboard. Anticipation has been slowly mounting for its maiden voyage. We meet a woman who has crammed on an entire zoo, a man who vomits constantly, and an ex-naval officer who thinks the ship is at war. All is going swimmingly as they glide through the water. But is there trouble ahead? Yes. ‘See The Awkward Silence or die in regret’ (Pajama Men). Shortlisted for BBC Writer's Prize. ‘Side-splitting ... This lot could be very good’ (Oxford Times).