Opinion: The Wrong Show Must Go On...


I heard a story the other night about a critic who had gone to review immersive  multi-media circus/burlesque show Silencio at the London Wonderground and had not quite got what they bargained for. The show involves donning headphones when you enter so that you hear the commentary individually while you enjoy being bombarded by spoof adverts onscreen and real acts onstage. The only trouble for this critic was that they had their headphones tuned to a different channel, so instead of getting a synchronised voiceover they got a jarring seventies rock soundtrack instead. Perhaps unsurprisingly they gave the show one star and concluded that "The party in my head was going on in another dimension altogether."

They have my sympathy and understanding. When I saw Silencio my headphones were also in another dimension. While I watched a robot version of Cher strutting around I was listening to the End of the World sketch for the Secret Policeman's Ball featuring Peter Cook and Rowan Atkinson. I was actually quite enjoying the comedic juxtaposition until someone helpfully spotted my error thanks to an oddly coloured light on my earpiece and retuned me. I'd say Silencio is not quite fully-formed, but as a different way of cutting the currently ubiquitous circus salami it is worth three stars rather than one.

Mistakes can unfortunately happen, with both good and bad consequences. I went to see a sketch duo in Edinburgh last week called That Pair because somewhere along the line I'd heard that they were the duo formerly known as Toby who I'd seen do a good show on the Fringe a couple of years ago. As soon as they walked on I realised I was watching an entirely different duo, but stayed and enjoyed their knockabout humour anyway.

There's a funny anecdote in David Baddiel's new show which offers another take on this issue of mistaken identity. Baddiel talks about being mistaken at a social event for Ben Elton by Andrew Lloyd Webber and even speculates on the possibility that Lord Webber actually wanted to collaborate with Baddiel and asked Ben Elton by accident. Their musical, The Beautiful Game, was, after all, about football. West End musical history could have been so different if the Three Lions co-writer had worked with Lord Webber instead if the writer of The Wright Way.

In Edinburgh where there are so many venues so close together and so many shows on at the same time it is easy to get things wrong. When Justin Edwards was on the Fringe playing sozzled kids' entertainer Jeremy Lion he had to have a very strict "no under 16s" door policy to ensure that nobody turned up with toddlers expecting a genuine children's entertainer and not a red-nosed alcoholic suffering from trapped wind.

I once went to see an American stand-up called Ben Bailey and within two minutes a couple got up and walked out. Bailey was not great but he was not that bad so I wondered what was going on. So did Bailey, who asked them why they were leaving. "We thought we'd booked tickets for Bill Bailey," they apologised. There but for the grace of God go a lot of journalists.


Silencio is on every Sat until Aug 24, www.londonwonderground.co.uk

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