The theme of this year’s Fringe was stepping into the unknown. So, having been burned by that in the past – so many bad choices have been made during Fringe weeks – we stuck, mainly, to what we knew. But we did try out a few new things – one of them was a play, picked purely because the advert for it was the first thing I saw when I got the Fringe guide, and the cast sounded fun.
The Joke is a play about three strangers who find themselves somewhere – or maybe nowhere – and start to wonder about who they are and what their purpose in the place they now find themselves in actually is. It’s up to you to take it how you want – but the stage is covered in floaty fabrics, the cast are dressed in white and there’s a very void-ish feel to everything outside of the stage area. So they’re probably dead. Or something. Who knows.
What they do reason, though, is that they are part of a joke. Specifically an Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman…
Played by an Englishman, a Scotsman and an… American?
Yep. And it works. The Englishman is English. The Scotsman is Irish and the American is Scottish because – well, he’s American. He’s bound to be Scottish.
What made this a treat – I’ll be incredibly nerdily honest here – is that two of the actors were Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor) and Robert Picardo (Voyager’s Emergency Medical Hologram, amongst many, many other things). Names widely known throughout the world of sci-fi and, brilliantly, the play played on this as well.
At the start, as the characters arrive there is some sort of introductory sting. You don’t think much of it as the first character – the Englishman – arrives. He just spins onto stage. But when McCoy joins as – to be sure – the Irish stereotype the musical sting and associated lighting are straight out of the opening titles to Doctor Who. It’s joyous, and quick enough to be missed, but long enough to be appreciated. And then to further cement this, Robert Picardo arrives to the characteristic sound of a transporter.
And then it’s dad jokes all the way – knock-knocks, why did the chickens and of course the three different people, one of whom is stupid, jokes. I unashamedly laughed at them all. Even the ones that never had the punchline delivered, because jokes. It’s also a good time to point out that Robert Picardo has probably the best mugging to the audience for a laugh face of anyone. Certainly of the three people on the stage. It was wonderful. Like a muppet given human form. Which, although it doesn’t sound it, is a compliment of the highest order.
In another bit of fan service the doctor, doctor jokes were rolled out.
“Doctor…” says the Englishman.
“Yes?” reply the two Doctors.
I bloody love an in-joke. Which itself is part of a joke. An in-in joke. Very much the polar opposite of Mickey Flanagan.
It was a good play. It left you thinking about the nature of things. About what was really happening. About what makes humour. And about how well Sylvester McCoy can play the spoons – it’s something that I saw on all sorts of things as a child, and he’s still there busting out the cutlery during the musical finale.
For the first show we saw at the Fringe this year, it was a pretty decent start to a week of blisters and copious amounts of fro-yo.