Holden and Revill: the North-South DivideWednesday, 17 August, 2011
Unfocused, mildly funny stand up double bill.
Laughing Horse @ Jekyll & Hyde – 7-28 Aug 11 – 16:30 (55 mins)
The premise: dour northerner Jon Holden and chirpy southerner Paul Revill attempt to explore, qualify and perhaps even explain the division between north and south found in different parts of the UK. The actuality: neither of them had enough material to fill an hour, so they banded together in the hope that when their powers combined, they’d at least get 50 minutes. And attempted to tie it together with an unashamedly loose theme that neither of them can really do justice, as they are both so resolutely middle class, and neither seems particularly northern or southern (they live in St Albans, for goodness sake!)
The show itself is informal, rather awkwardly set up in a cluttered pub. The audience are asked to imagine that they have actually queued round the block to get into this gig, and that these guys are the poster boys of stand up comedy and we’re in a massive, well known venue. It makes for a nice introduction to Paul Revill’s set, which consists of how he did his research for the show (he went to London to watch Billy Eliot), an amusing anecdote about getting chased by a scary northerner in a car, and teaching sex education to fourteen year olds. Paul Revill is likeable and easy to watch, but his material often lacks a definite ending, it just sort of peters out. He does have some gems, such as parents taking their children on (British business investment programme) Dragons Den, and a well observed chuckle-inducing section on the ‘condom walk of shame’ (you’ll also find out how he got his imaginary nickname from his imaginary girlfriend), but unfortunately lack of concrete character decisions undermine his delivery slightly.
Jon Holden’s performance is much less focused. He moves between placing himself above his comedy – trying to double-bluff the fact that some of his jokes just don’t work – to playing at being generally disgruntled with his lot. His material is less story based than his co-stars – in fact, it is made up of some rather odd and frankly a bit laboured audience participation. A questionnaire to establish which is more ‘manly’, North or South, is full of quite blatant stereotypes which are mildly amusing but go on for too long with too much repetition. He gives an audience member a copy of his set to prompt him should he get lost – this doesn’t really seem to go anywhere or have any pay-off. A potentially quite funny section involving shadow puppetry on an audience members torso is unfortunately underworked, and he does too easily resort to berating various celebrities for cheap laughs. His observations on the audience and interaction with them are actually better than a lot of his prepared material (there were some witty quips about the potential evils of the soil industry at the expense of one PHD studying spectator that were good for a chuckle), but a lot of Jon Holden’s humour seems to rely on those happy to snigger at the expense of others, rather than any genuine innovation. He also felt the need to introduce the premise of the show three or four times, just in case anyone (including the performers) had forgotten that they were dealing with North versus South.
The two comics don’t really work as a double act, and billing themselves as such is doing both of them a disservice. They both had mildly funny material that could be a lot better with development and more concrete performance personas. Both occasionally went down the self-deprecating route, which is far too common place among comics and should be avoided as it comes across as a time-filler. Paul Revill is likeable and his energy makes him watchable; Jon Holden has potentially the more original material, but both sets definitely need more work.
Performers – Jon Holden & Paul Revill.
(c) Emma MacLennan 2011
Reviewed Sunday 14th August 2011 / Laughing Horse Free Festival 2011, Jekyll & Hyde Pub, Edinburgh