The Joke, Camden People’s Theatre, review: ‘Pitch-perfect spin on a classic joke’

The Joke

The Joke - Credit: Archant

Ever feel that life is like one interminable joke being played just on you?

Writer/ performer Will Adamsdale’s latest show The Joke explores the universality of this feeling and then runs with it in every conceivable direction.

Featuring the stock figures of an Englishman, Scotsman and Irishman trapped in a script-less joke, Adamsdale’s performance of his freewheeling absurdist comedy confirms that his charm and rapport with the audience is just as impressive as it was more than 10 years ago when he first made waves at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Using a fluid, improvised style, Adamsdale’s Englishman, Camden People Theatre’s artistic director Brian Logan’s Scotsman, and Lloyd Hutchinson’s Irishman strike a pitch-perfect balance between whimsy and sharp physical comedy.

Questions are raised about the nature of identity, prejudice and how stereotypes confine and even reassure us.

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The observations may not be revelatory but it’s the multitude of nuanced references – from the historical through to pop-culture – that give the show its sparkle.

Adamsdale is not afraid to shine an unforgiving spotlight on the stereotypes and their desperate desire to trump each other’s status: the public school-boy Englishman with his disingenuous over-use of the term ‘mate’, the Scotsman’s Pavlovian response to hearing a few bars of The Proclaimers, the Irishman’s chip about Northern Ireland’s violent past.

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As the neat bar-room yarn builds, the claustrophobia of the scenario becomes an existential metaphor for life.

With no relief apart from their dwindling supply of Tictacs and no escape through the exit door till they come up with a better gag, the trio face a stark choice: they can jump off their imaginary lifeboat or call quits on the stand-off.

Or they can always tell another variation on the joke to while away time – there was this Englishman, Irishman and a Scotsman...

The Joke is at Camden People’s Theatre.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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