Monday, August 15, 2011

Edinburgh Fringe 2011: Henry Paker - Cabin Fever

Following on from his great turn in the hugely charming and very funny sketch group Superclump (along with the likes of Elis James and Nat Luurtsema) in 2009, and his other great turn in the inventive and, well, again, very funny play The Golden Lizard (with the fab Mike Wozniak) last year, we've finally got a full hour of non-stop, solo Henry Paker. And you know what? Turns out he's charming, inventive and very funny all on his own too.

For his show Cabin Fever he's holed up in the Pleasance's rather cramped and hot Hut venue - "should have called it 'Portacabin Fever'" he half-quips, half-sighs - and frankly, the small space barely holds him. He's a tall man and he loves to fill the room, striding up and down to act out his stories.

But the room does fit with the Cabin Fever theme which, however loosely, ties together his anecdotes and observations under the umbrella of 'things we would talk about if we were stuck halfway up a mountain.'

Turns out we would talk about pretty day-to-day stuff like technology gripes and dating, and there are moments when you worry we're heading into prosaic comedy territory - in particular one section about the pointlessness of the 'Insert' key on your keyboard. Needn't have worried. What's great about Paker is that he can push seemingly everyday observations into bizarre and unexpected places, and it's that creativity and slight oddness that makes this show so enjoyable.

Watch out for the great set piece, too, in which Paker demonstrates how he can pretend to have read a potential lady-friend's favourite book in order to impress her. To see him hanging onto every word to gather crumbs of information that will help the charade, with ever-increasing desperation, is a real treat.

Cabin Fever does get off to a rather sedate start, but for the most part this is a hugely entertaining show with just the right level of silly, delivered by a confident and engaging comic.

Written for British Comedy Guide

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