Monday, August 20, 2012

Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Pappy's - Last Show Ever

When I sat down to write this, I thought I'd begin with the line: "I always knew Pappy's had this show in them." But you know what, I'm not actually sure that's true. I knew, of course, that they could create a stellar sketch show - they are one of the finest sketch groups around and they do fun better than any act I can think of (you can take the Fun out of Pappy's etc...) But I have to admit, I didn't see Last Show Ever (Pleasance Dome, 8.20pm) coming. It's a ruddy tour de force.

Ben, Matthew and Tom have clearly decided that just writing their best sketches and stringing them together into an hour of big knockabout laughs isn't enough - though believe me, the quality and inventiveness of the sketches on show here means that it definitely would have been. No, this year they've decided to frame those skits in such a way that delivers something that sketch comedy very rarely attempts, let alone knocks out of the park: proper emotion.

The premise that allows for this is a really clever one - we meet the boys in the twilight of their lives, looking back on what turned out to be their last ever show, and trying to remember what drove them apart. Was it Tom's new fortune, gained through the inheritance of a glove shop? Maybe not, but it gives us one heck of a good glove-based song. Or perhaps it was Matthew's celebrity status, achieved by excelling on a TV game show that required him not to be able to do things (which it turns out he's really good at, ironically)? Or could it be that Ben found love that night, and - as we see in a really charming Up-style montage - left his friends for a long and generally happy marriage with the girl in the front row.

As Pappy's piece together that final show, we get to see the sketches that they performed, the best of which includes a wordless routine that has very different meanings depending which music accompanies it, and their take on the dynamic between Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow. Plus, we hear their memories and commentary and - eventually - the true story behind that fateful show... All in all it's intricately written (bang-on-the-mark callbacks and reveals abound), hugely funny and, perhaps most impressively of all, genuinely emotional.

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