Review: Pappy’s: Last Show Ever – Pleasance Queen Dome, Edinburgh.
When Pappy’s – the collective name for comedy trio Ben Clark, Matthew Crosby and Tom Parry – first bound onto stage, all beards, guitars and jolly smiles, your first impression is that you’ve been transported back to a 70s children’s TV show. Their immediate enthusiasm, audience participation and obvious pleasure for performance is infectious and, by the end of the opening-number, you’re snuggling into your chair, ready for some good old-fashioned, clean-cut entertainment.
It comes thick and fast, too. The audience might be forgiven for expecting something that bordered on the corny but, by the end of the initial sketch involving cats and firemen culminating in a brilliant visual gag, you realise you’re watching comedy that is slick, seamless and very, very funny.
The basic premise, that the trio are currently old men looking back at their last ever show together and trying to figure out where it all went wrong, provides the context for a huge gamut of comedic devices: character comedy, songs, slapstick, and parody are all slotted into the broader story arc. Think the Goodies but with dirtier jokes. Nonetheless it’s all beautifully executed. The trio appear to be physically coordinated, they can carry a tune and at least two of them play an instrument. What more can you ask for?
Charisma, perhaps, but luckily this lot have it in buckets. The success of a sketch show often relies on the camaraderie of the performers and Pappy’s is no exception: it’s clear that we’re watching a trio entirely at ease with each other as performers. Clark, Crosby and Parry are, individually and collectively, engaging stage presences who establish an instant rapport with their audience. Consequently, although spectator participation is required, it never seems threatening or daunting; the audience is being laughed with rather than at. Indeed, a parody of a John Lewis advert provides one of the best uses of audience participation to be found anywhere, combining humour and a touch of pathos to beautiful effect.
If criticism can be made, it’s that some of the comedy lacks a little punch. Although religion rears its head in a couple of sketches, the jokes never remotely border on controversial or satirical. A couple of well-placed C-bombs provide the only humour that borders on outré and earns the show its 12 rating. Instead, the trio stick to surrealist sketches and musical numbers; they occasionally poke fun but their comedy is mainly very safe. It’s about as close as the Fringe gets to a late-night family show. But it’s also very funny.
Date of live review: Friday 10th August 2012.