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The Return of O’Farahan and Keith

Thursday, 25 August, 2011

It is hard to know what to expect when walking into The Hive for The Return of O’Farahan and Keith. The flyer asks; ”Can two Yorkshire cops clean up New York’s crimewave?” while the description on the Edinburgh Fringe website promises multimedia and film, but it is certainly sold as a comedy show.

To confuse matters still further, a screen presents the audience with a few mischievous disclaimers; “If you need jokes about clothes or your job this show may not be for you” and “This show contains ideas”. There is still no way of knowing what is going to happen as Jon Reed hands out popcorn to the audience before throwing his audience headlong into the world of O’Farahan and Keith without introduction or hesitation.

They are the fictional stars of a 1970s cop television series, and as their archives of ‘footage’ appear on the screen it looks strikingly similar to the 1970s cop television series Starsky and Hutch for those that might recognise it. Jon Reed and Kevin Dawson, O’Farahan and Keith respectively also look nothing like their on-screen counterparts as they stand in darkness. They ad-lib and speak rehearsed lines over film of the hapless policemen, using broad Yorkshire accents with no concern for colouring within the lines or lip-synching.

It is impossible to look away in these moments, one line matched with a brilliantly cheesy gesture from their on-screen personas and this unique approach to comedy hits the nail on the head. Jon Reed and Kevin Dawson relish in the little mistakes they commit, poor-timing and occasionally poor vocal work tickles them both to the point of corpsing which makes for an even more enthralling performance, as their skills for quick witted improvisation become apparent.

These scenes are punctuated with the present-day O’Farahan sitting on a stool taking part in a radio interview, with Bek Edwards as the reporter who wishes to delve into the past of O’Farahan and Keith. Bek Edwards’s sparse, wry comic timing makes these scenes convincing and sadly comic, giving a narrative structure to the story of O’Farahan and Keith’s partnership. The occasionally improvised and devised script worked well and the old television clips were astutely edited and revealing, showing how truly ridiculous Starsky and Hutch and television programmes of that ilk really were.

At times Jon Reed and Kevin Dawson merely have to state what is happening on screen for gales of laughter to ensue. The material occasionally speaks so eloquently for itself.

However, it is not necessarily apparent that a show of this style necessarily benefits from being performed live. If more improvisation was incorporated, it may have seemed more like an unmissable performance but it felt that it could have been equally enjoyed as a recorded dubbed video. If Jon Reed and Kevin Dawson appealed to what their audience was reacting to more it could have been a more inclusive performance that could have pushed it towards being essential viewing.

Performed, written and devised by John Reed and Kevin Dawson

Featuring vocal performances from Bek Edwards, Tom Parry, Andrew Bird, Jo Caulfield, Martin Mor, Ro Campbell, Pete Firman, Gavin Webster, Patrick Monahan, Jon Clark, Johnny Vegas.

(c) Alexandra Kavanagh 2011

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