A comedy double bill from Robin Ince (with assistance from Michael Legge) begins as a preview for the Edinburgh Fringe and ends as a combination of an avant-garde show and an endurance test.
Inspired by William James's description of the start of life as Blooming Buzzing Confusion Ince has devised a new act on the subject of the brain. He compares the meticulous preparation of his comedic colleagues with his own approach, which is to ad-lib from notes scribbled on 250 post cards.
With such a carefree approach you might expect a loose act but nothing like the glorious anarchy that develops. Ince begins by relating the stories that awakened his interest in the brain but rapidly becomes sidetracked into examining all sorts of tangential subjects. Ince describes in gleeful detail the outcome of experiments in which he has taken part due to his involvement with science programmes.
Ince's presentational style is loud, declamatory and almost panicky which becomes more apparent as he goes right off-topic and delivers a series of reminiscences and very funny character studies of his colleagues Brian Cox and Alan Moore. Realising he has lost the plot Ince reads quotes from the prompt cards to give an idea of how the show might eventually turn out. Edinburgh, he concludes, will get some kind of event if not an actual show. Based on the preview it will be breathlessly funny if exhausting.
Ince returns with Michael Legge for the second half of the bill. As the duo has performed this part of the act before you might expect a more polished presentation and you would be dead wrong. The concept is that the audience describes things that irritate and then votes on whether the topic generates Pointless Anger or Righteous Ire.
Maybe it's because the hour is getting late, the show is over running and the venue is becoming stuffy but the act never really takes off. The subjects put forward are obvious – arena comedy, immersive theatre and the commercial exploitation of the Star Wars characters.
At no point, however, is there any sense of outrage. Irishman Legge attempts controversy by bemoaning that he missed the best days of ‘The Troubles' and Ince stirs the pot by remarking that Manchester is not the best town to wax nostalgic on that subject but there is still no response.
This may be because the presentation of the material is not engaging. The atmosphere runs between a bitchy gossip session and two very well informed, and rather self-satisfied, geeks playing one-upmanship by quoting obscure references.
The session quickly runs out of steam but Ince is reluctant to let the show end and drags out routines past their natural conclusion. He adopts a dictatorial persona declaring that he will not be satisfied until the evening has achieved the mood of a John Cage concert. Legge's increasing use of ‘hostage' metaphors (This is a reverse Amnesty concert – we're not letting anyone out) becomes less and less funny.
Finally after expressing the wish that the audience enjoyed taking part in the immersive version of Dog Day Afternoon (see what I mean about those references) Ince brings the show to an end. An encore is not requested.
Blooming Buzzing Confusion runs at the Edinburgh Fringe from 31st July to 12th August.
Pointless Anger, Righteous Ire is also at the Fringe from 2nd to 12th August.
- Dave Cunningham