Barry Ferns has made a considerable impression at this year’s Fringe with his numerous shows involving the moniker Lionel Richie. An artist who is clearly looking to spread the boundaries of conventional comedy, his performances atop Arthur’s seat and audio tour podcast have caused a notable stir. The last of his ventures this year saw him assemble a crowd at the Scott Monument in Princes Street Gardens to organise a spontaneous flash mob.
Despite initial fears that no one would turn up, keen volunteers appeared just before the start time. Having been given a free toothbrush, the crowd were instructed to make their own way to the National Gallery and wait for a signal from Ferns. At exactly the same moment, around 30 people began avidly brushing their choppers, much to the bemusement of all that weren’t party to the event.
As a concept, there was nothing new in what Ferns was doing, flash mobs being a regular occurrence since the term was coined in 2003. Whilst it was certainly a bit of lighthearted fun, there was a definite feeling that it could have been something much more. Rather than having a highly orchestrated event arranged through email or social media, Ferns decided to play on the impromptu aspect of it. The result was the whole event seemed somewhat ill conceived. Far more success would have come if the event was greater publicised and the choice of venue didn’t really work as the number of people taking part outnumbered the passers by considerably. It was difficult to establish any discernible effect the flash mob was having and so there was the unfortunate feeling that the whole experience was ultimately a bit pointless.