No One Man, No Cry

LEYLA HAMID loves Adam Lawrence and Ben Rowse’s weird and wonderful return to the Cambridge comedy scene.

Adam Lawrence no one man no cry one man show permbroke new cellars

Pembroke New Cellars, 7pm, Tue 5 – Sat 9 February 2013, £5

Sitting in the dark and cosy venue of Pembroke New Cellars, I wondered how this particular One Man was going to pull off an hour and a half of just him and the stage. But pull it off he did.

Emerging from behind the curtain with a seemingly irrelevant walking-stick, ‘Robin the cleaner’ grabbed us immediately with his awkward and yet simultaneously strangely fluid body movements. Think Mr. Bean-esque. Seeming disjunction is – as we are to find out – a continuing trend in this comedy.

In a clever comic twist, we learn from a helpful cardboard placard that the show is set ‘backstage’ at a theatre. Complete with microphone and soundboard, the audience chuckled as Robin played out various sound effects, from drill-style lip reverberation to thirst provoking beer-glugging. To cut a long story short, the bus full of actors goes AWOL and the potty Robin inadvertently ends up having to man the show.

This is where we get to the good stuff. Attempting to prepare for the various roles (which exist in superabundance), the former mop-bearing cleaner character hops with amusing agility. There are so many, too many, to name and shame them all here, but material includes an entertaining mockery of the profound philosophical questions which adorn so much of our Cambridge drama, a ‘heartfelt’ monologue lifted from a technical instruction manual (complete with wire/socket innuendos, of course), a laddish lothario and a girly girl with a fear of the ‘glass ceiling’. Perhaps no comedy is quite complete without some (here quite tame) stereotypes of our European neighbours. I think my favourite was Mr Kaputt-stein, the evil German antagonist with dreams of bank robbery and robot army moon landings.

I realise this all sounds pretty mad. And, yes – mad it certainly was. However, when it comes to performance time, the dissonant and seemingly unrelated characters are reconciled in the skilfully-woven one man show. The monologues that sounded more like dialogues minus person number two find their corresponding answer in their partner characters. It all fits.

This is where the writing (Adam Lawrence and Ben Rowse) deserves serious commendation. The show’s two part structure is original, funny and dexterously crafted. My only problem is that, as a result of such a structure, we hear the same lines played out again with minimal alteration. Sadly, the jokes just aren’t as funny the second time around.

Nevertheless, Adam Lawrence’s comic energy is brilliant and unflagging, and he utterly commands the stage. This one-man-many-character show keeps us invariably on-side and sniggering throughout. If you’re after an evening of engaging entertainment and wonderful weirdness, I suggest you head down to Pembroke Cellars.