Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Edinburgh Fringe 2010: The Golden Lizard

[Original British Comedy Guide review here]

Following on from the big success of the Pajama Men's excellent two-man theatre-slash-sketch comedy show Last Stand To Reason comes this excellent two-man theatre-slash-sketch comedy show The Golden Lizard starring two comics who are celebrated in their own right: Mike Wozniak and Henry Paker.

With the aid of just one chair, a pair of clip-on spectacles, some Aviators and a visor, the two comics play out the tale of Roy - a lowly librarian trainee with a fear of ladders, but a prodigious genius for alphabetising. If only he could overcome his irrational ladder phobia, he would be the greatest librarian there ever was; as it is, he is destined to a dull, ground-level-bound life among the As, Bs and Cs, silently lusting after his mentor Susan, who, for whatever reason, speaks with a manly southern drawl. It is only when a menacing stranger with, what else, a German accent comes into the library requesting The Golden Lizard by Floyd Vernon, that his life takes a more exciting turn.

The story is essentially a series of very physical, very silly, but hugely funny vignettes that give Wozniak and Paker the chance to give full flight to their clearly expansive imaginations and precise comic timing. Throughout the show, the professor and author of the all-important book, Floyd Vernon pops up - played by whichever of the two happens to have the spectacles - to give us one of his latest theories; be it the fact that we only really need five numbers, whether a tree that falls when no-one's around really does make a sound, or working out the average name of the audience (it's as convoluted a process as you would expect). These moments are among the most creative and funniest of the whole show.

Between the mini-lectures the story unfolds, and we travel from the library - by plane, ship and Emperor Goose - to Bolivia in search of the book, with the performers taking the roles of assorted, generally mad men and women along the way. It is a little slow to get off the ground and ends abruptly, but in between there is a massive amount of fun to be had here and importantly, both Wozniak and Paker are really engaging performers - Paker clearly loves a bit of verbal invention, ad libbing his way through some killer throwaway lines, while Wozniak is a brilliant physical performer who is a constant joy to watch.

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