Review: Simon Munnery: Fylm-Makker – The Stand (1), Edinburgh.
Something about The Stand feels a little different today. The seats feel a tad closer to the stage, in a venue that is already noted for an intimate atmosphere. Then Simon Munnery appears. Well, his face does. Not on stage, but on a screen mounted above it.
You see, Simon has decided to do some experimenting, sitting at a table behind the audience and communicating with them through a video link. This, he explains, is because he wants to see if a face can be enhanced and amplified in a similar way as a microphone does to the voice. Welcome to Fylm-Makker a self-confessed ‘work in progress’ that Munnery has brought to the Edinburgh Fringe, combining surreal worldly observations with bizarre cardboard puppetry.
The face on the screen informs the audience that his work has been described by one reviewer as “the closest comedy gets to modern art”. This is much to Munnery’s consternation, constructing a Venn diagram to illustrate why he views this as an insult. It is easy to see, however, how this description applies.
Cardboard puppets are manipulated dextrously onscreen, following seemingly random tangents and themes. Some of these are a success; a cowboy showdown proves particularly memorable as a set piece, while his Sherlock Holmes monologue displays some impressive verbal gymnastics.
The overall results, though, are heavily mixed. Some of the ‘fylms’ (Munnery’s newly coined term to describe his ‘alive’ productions) fall uncomfortably flat, appearing to have no real purpose in the show. Artistic? Certainly. Funny? That’s down to personal taste. The genial chat linking the mini-shows follows a familiar pattern, occasionally employing sharp word play and surrealist humour to good effect, but just as often descending into nonsense.
The point of Fylm-Makker seems to be to challenge the audience, testing the limits of what can be rightly called comedy. The problem is that the question is too open, the comedian himself unsure of his own motives. In explaining why his comedy cannot be called Modern Art, Simon draws attention to an uncomfortable truth; much of this show isn’t that funny. Self awareness can be an effective tool, but Fylm-Makker is sometimes painfully so. The audience is treated to a short film at the conclusion of events, with Munnery himself pointing out that it doesn’t contain any jokes.
Bold and experimental, Simon Munnery’s Fylm-Makker can, at times, be brilliant. Polishing down the often self-indulgent fat may reveal a gem, but at present the show remains an oddity. Fans of intellectual surrealism certainly should not disregard, but others should approach with caution.
Date of live review: Monday 6th August 2012.