Review: Sam Simmons, Soho Theatre

Sam Simmons

This was such a weird gig that my review that ran in the Standard last week (reprinted below) requires some context. It is hard to know where Sam Simmons the man ends and Sam Simmons the act begins. Throughout this show Simmons berated the audience for not getting on board despite all of the effort he was making. At least once he threatened to knock the scripted material on the head, at which point his fans cheered and encouraged him to carry on.

Was it all an elaborate gag? He does have previous in this area. Yet at the end of the gig he explained that he was in a particularly difficult mood. A documentary called Home Delivery in which he spoke about his troubled childhood had just aired in his native Australia so he had spent the day dealing with the fallout.

I was going to say “fielding the fallout”, but I think the last thing Simmons would want to hear is the word Fielding. He has previously expressed frustration that he gets compared to The Mighty Boosh by us lazy critics as he has never actually seen Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt’s TV series. Yet there is an undeniable similarity. In fact at times the similarity is positively uncanny. In his current show Simmons has a routine which could be called “Man Chicken”. In Fielding’s current show – which by another freaky coincidence I saw on the night before this show – he has a routine which could be called "Chicken Man". 

In Home Delivery Simmons revealed that as a child he dreamt of being a zookeeper. And what did Noel Fielding play in the Mighty Boosh’s BBC series? A zookeeper. However, during the TV documentary Simmons also recalled that growing up he was a big fan of The Goodies – a programme Fielding and Barratt have also championed. So I guess the reason for any overlap is simply that they have drawn on similar post-Python influences. Case closed, no need to call in Sgt Raymond Boombox. Now read the review below...

 

At the end of Sam Simmons’s show the Australian absurdist offered his own critique. “It’s been a washout,” said the lycra-clad loon. His post-mortem was harsh but this was not quite the focused performance that earned him a Foster’s Award nomination in Edinburgh this summer.

Death of a Sails-Man finds Simmons portraying a windsurfer stranded on the ocean and spiralling rapidly into madness. Imagine Robert Redford in All is Lost but singing songs about cannibalism, pulling his trousers down and wishing he was a horse.

Despite the fact that Simmons has said he has never seen the Mighty Boosh, this has a similar dreamlike sensibility. A mid-set heckle which made the comparison might have contributed to Simmons’s increasingly distracted mood.

But from the start he seemed out of sorts, repeatedly threatening to ditch the script. Yet there was plenty to enjoy, including his eerily phallic bumbag bouncing around as he danced to Biggie Smalls and a tribute to grandma going up in a spaceship. Lee Griffiths, of sketch group Late Night Gimp Fight as his deadpan assistant, deserves some praise too.

There will clearly be better performances during this run. After the gig Simmons stayed onstage to explain that he was stressed out following the airing of a documentary in Australia about his fraught relationship with his mother. The night was no washout but personal issues may go some way towards explaining why he appeared, no pun intended, all at sea.

Sam Simmons is at the Soho Theatre until December 6. Tickets here

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