Flo Best and Ellen McGrath had a whale of a time and surprisingly learned a bit about belugas along the way.
When the only information you have about the comedy show you’re about to watch is a short informational paragraph about sea-dwelling mammals, it’s hard to know what to expect.
However, after experiencing Jordan Mitchell’s Beluga, an absurd underwater romp that defies definition and thrives on playfulness, an abundance of facts about ‘sea-canaries’ seems to make perfect sense.
With Footlights credentials and a string of comedy experience behind him, Mitchell began the show with no shortage of confidence. Strutting around Corpus Playrooms in a full diving gear and tinkering with the ‘submarine’ – a set that wouldn’t look out of place in a budget sci-fi film – there were a host of peculiar props from neon pink tutus to mini trampolines and crutches. These would come into play later in a series of bizarre sketches about giraffes with vertigo and flamingos who flamenco, amongst others. If these sound like they have been inspired by a book of children’s stories, it’s because, as Mitchell himself said, they were.
The entire performance was well-rehearsed with very little awkwardness, even as Mitchell negotiated audience interactions. Although the sketches seemed a little disarticulated at times from a loose animal-based theme, this didn’t detract from the overall high standard and maintained a surprising variety of topics covered throughout the performance.
Audience interaction was one of the defining features of the show, and it was not only Mitchell’s wit but also some fantastic inputs from the crowd that got some of the biggest laughs. Considering the intimate size of the venue, this factor was nicely tailored to suit the space and audience size.
The use of voiceovers in the show was a highlight, adding dimension to a one-man performance that was creative and coordinated nicely. A brief interlude into the history of whale evolution was another unexpected twist that was more educational than I had anticipated. Mitchell might not be the next David Attenborough, but the quirkiness of this segment provided a subtler silliness than some of the early physical comedy. This segment seemed to drag on a little at times after a more fast-pace of sketches at the start of the show, but didn’t diminish the performance overall.
All in all, a strong performance from a confident performer with a unique and likeable style. By drawing on strengths in absurdist comedy and making good use of the smaller audience, the show was distinctive and hilarious.
Particular credit has to be given to a whale-themed grand finale that was a curiously uplifting and most definitely unexpected end to a fantastic show.