To my mind, there are two kinds of Fringe: there is ‘mainstream Fringe’, established and semi-established acts performing in established venues, and then there is ‘fringe Fringe’, as epitomised by festivals such as the Stratford-Upon-Avon Fringe, which features absolute unknowns sitting in the back of darkened pubs whilst reeling off their fresh new material. Now, I realise that I’m starting to sound like the most awful, preachy hipster, so I’ll remove my glasses and hand-made pashmina and we’ll say no more on the matter. Suffice to say that there are some acts that are more ‘under the radar’ than others, acts that come to the ‘mainstream Fringe’ to perform as part of the ‘fringe Fringe’ tradition. Aberdeen University Comedy Society’s ‘Let’s Abduct Mother Theresa’ is such a show, to be found nowhere but the High Street, where they jostle with hundreds of leaflet handlers in an attempt to drum up an audience. They are not to be found within the pages of the Fringe’s official guide; but, were one to stumble into Ryan’s Bar on Hope Street at an opportune moment, one would be charmed, entranced and amused by a troupe of manic entertainers as they set out on a quest for fame, fortune and Fringe recognition.
The show got off to a slow start in the small performance area that Ryan’s had set aside; an initial sketch established the basic premise of the Society having forgotten to write any new material for their Fringe show. Following on from this wonderfully self-referential jumping-off point, the comedy came thick and fast. There was some consistency between a few sketches, such as the recurring scene in which a pair of bonkers musicians come up with some of the world’s most famous theme tunes, but as a whole the action bounced all over the place. From a terrifying vision of the world in 2020, when social interactions have been reduced to Facebook ‘likes’ and ‘pokes’, to a man attempting to send a text on the Royal Mile whilst being badgered by a maniac armed with flyers, this show is relentless in its humour. All of the skits are cleverly written, offering wry commentaries on the nature of pronunciation and the perils of allowing actors to re-interpret Shakespeare, and, despite the disparity between dates and content, none of the scenes feel like out-of-place filler. The reason for this, I think, is because each and every sketch is phenomenally surreal, seeking both to create plausible yet absurd situations and to tease the ridiculous out of everyday life. In this respect the troupe proves triumphant; the writing is both observant and masterful, creating the perfect comic equilibrium which never fails to provoke a titter or two.
The only criticism that could be levelled at the Comedy Society is that some of their entertainers display a somewhat wooden acting style; punchlines were delivered in monotonous tones once or twice, whilst some of the wit-peddlers had a tendency to stand stock-still with their arms hanging limply. However, these issues were trivial when compared to the acting as whole, as the vast majority of the group engaged with their material with energy and enthusiasm. Special mention must go to Adam Cook, Vincent Price and John Lewis, all of whom threw themselves into their performances with tremendous gusto.
To my everlasting shame, I had never attended a showcase by the Comedy Society before; had I known just how talented its members are, I would certainly have taken steps to rectify this slight. ‘Let’s Abduct Mother Theresa’ is a rip-roaring spectacle, acerbic and awfully funny; I would certainly recommend it to anyone with even the most mediocre sense of humour. Four out of five stars.
More information about this show can be found here: http://www.comedy.co.uk/fringe/2012/lets_abduct_mother_theresa/