Nic Wright

Review: The Order Of The Silly Billies, Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle

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“Mental: (Informal) Slightly daft; out of one’s mind; crazy.”

If there’s one word that seems to consistently rear its head when people talk about Silly Billies, as illustrated by their newest poster, it’s “mental”.

Now, there’s Oxford English Dictionary mental, and there’s a lab-coated man with a pan-South African accent doling out slices of “birfday bread” (that’s bread liberally sprinkled with cocoa powder) to baffled audience members. And that’s just the warm-up.

To say Silly Billies, tonight taking up residence at The Alphabetti Theatre for their last Newcastle show before an extended hiatus, is mental is a fair description, but not a complete one.

Unquestionably silly, surreal and erratic, Silly Billies has forged a reputation for being the most unpredictable comedy nights in the region. From stand-up to sketch, character acts to the sort of performance art that could pass for a genuine psychological breakdown, there’s truly no telling what you’ll come across when you take a pew at the church of the Silly Billies.

Tonight, the members of Silly Billies are eschewing their the guest bookings, presenting an hour of their best original sketches for a sell-out audience.

Through expertly-timed and hilariously off-kilter performances, The Order of the Silly Billies offer their fun-house-mirror take on subjects such as adult babies, Blind Date and conspiracy theorists.

Like a honey badger in a tutu, the overtly frivolous show is not afraid to bare its teeth. From its occultist opening video montage to its viciously dead-on ribbing of a certain local improv group, a deliciously dark and prickly undercurrent provides a fine balance to the more whimsical material.

Endearingly shambolic, it’s as much League of Gentleman as it is Monty Python, with its peculiar marriage of the puerile and the grotesque, the asinine and the tragic.

Silly Billies has cultivated a space for the fearless, the innovative and open-minded; no concept too strange, no prop too messy, no act too mortifying in the name of comedy. For those willing to shun the safety and certainty of mainstream comedy in favour of innovation, there is real treasure to be found in the dark basements and arts spaces across the country, and The Order is at the forefront of this march to comedic pastures-new.

It’s all very well and good to say that The Order of the Silly Billies’ balls-out comedy ethos is admirable and refreshing, but ultimately it’s a hollow sentiment if the pay-off isn’t there. Luckily for the audience tonight, the bottom line is that the Silly Billies bunch are very, very funny.

The Order is dead. Long live The Order.

Date of live review: Saturday 6 February 2016