Rich Downes is becoming an Abnormally Funny People (AFP) regular. Last time, he went, he felt down and needed lifting. AFP worked for him! Looking at the line up of Mat Fraser, Liz Carr, and Laurence Clark performing at Soho Theatre on Monday 19 March, he knew it would be good.
Mat Fraser, Liz Carr, and Laurence Clark are people I respect. I’ve known them as friends, contacts and activists. They make me stop and think.
Way back the Disability Movement built a circuit for our talents to come sing, play, make laughter. Educated, agitated we activated. It was there I first saw Mat Fraser, promoting himself as the Thalidomide Ninja, a karate kicking rapper, taking discriminators to the crapper. He’s been through a few incarnations since. Seal Boy being one. The somewhat gawky, dread wearing youngster with a penchant for the political has turned into an authoritative, senatorial voice. He has a mature, handsome look. Convivial and welcoming he’s a good host, mc-ing with charm.
Liz Carr has been a focus of my work before. As a recent interviewee she let me into many secrets. One being she is not the most reliable show opener. She can scare with a stare. So it was interesting seeing her start the gang off. Her presentation was different; faster, catchier, as if she’s working her role. There is something about her delivery that edges towards Roy Walker’s, catch phrases. The Liz Carr Game Show - I’d pay to see that. Liz is right. She’s getting better as an opener.
Something new happens. Don Biswas strides the stage. AFP nurtures new talent too. It’s not all about the names. It’s about providing opportunities. He’s already bantering with Mat, feeling his way into the team. He defines as having Aspergers, Dyspraxia and being Indian. One of these he tells us is not his disability. His one-liners are built around his cultural differences. He engages with his look, his stance, his views and obsessions. He may become important. I look forward to when the one-liners become a storytelling stream. The material is there. The sequence needs a little work.
Here comes the real old stuff now. AFP’s producer, director, in house non disabled comedian, the closest thing to Tommy Cooper; the laugh making; Steve Best. Wandering on he raises his guitar and re-appears with a red nose. I am alarmed. The fake proboscis throws me completely. I have not come here for Comic Relief. My response is symptomatic of my understanding of the red nose as symbol of power. It dawns on me that the classic clown’s hooter has been stolen and I note the struggle that has to be fought if this harmless prop is to be reclaimed and become funny again. I am more comfortable with the fake beard and latex wife.
Following my initial shock Steve reels me in completely. He has a knack of making you think he is talking directly to you and I guess he was talking to Simon Minty (co-producer and comic) at times. This shows the inclusivity of his tomfoolery. He is by turns comic, musical, magical, wise and foolish.
We have the old. We have the new. Will the AFP marriage give us something blue? Yes. It’s the ever so slightly foul-mouthed Laurence Clark and his completely bonkers power point. He and it take us through family relationships particularly the most fundamental one with his partner. Family is about to go supernova for Laurence with a BBC one documentary being aired on Sunday 25 March.
Making this has informed Laurence once again about the power of the media. How it can be used for good; how it doesn’t have to be the property of the cheap and tawdry at every turn. It can befriend and be useful as much as it attacks and scapegoats. Laurence engages with his own use of media and gives us a perfect example of reclaiming his own youtube work, his public charity collection scam ‘Kill the Puppies’. The youtube clips are funny as they stand alone but are best with Laurence at the microphone, live and hilarious. Laurence, like Abnormally Funny People, remains heavily recommended.
Up-coming dates at the Soho Theatre
Steve Day, Addy Borgh, Liam O'Carroll, Kiruna Stamell, Dawn Willis
21st May (Palantyped / live text to speech)
Huw Thomas, Caro Sparks, Gareth Berliner, Liz Carr
Tanyalee Davis, Bennett Arron, Liz Carr, Liam O'Carroll
You can buy tickets at http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/afp/