Fully Committed sounds like it should be a winner, Marcus Brigstocke, Radio 4 comic regular (The Now Show, Giles Wemberley-Hogg Goes Off), tackles Becky Mode’s acclaimed one-man comedy set in the basement of successful New York restaurant. All told, Brigstocke must voice over thirty different characters in the course of the show, all ringing in to the restaurant where he is managing reservations. It’s a task which he excels at; one minute he is mild-voiced Sam, the next a deep and rasping chef, or superior French Maître D’ Jean-Claude. He switches in a rapid and crisp fashion between different voices on the phone, all of this accompanied by rubber-faced antics which personify his characters. His skill at multi-roling is admirable, and fortunate, because it is truly the only thing which carries the show.
The main problem is that the show’s characters just aren’t interesting or funny anymore. The aristocratic and shallow American dames with foghorn voices, and the cringe worthy camped-up male PA, seem not only like two-dimensional caricatures, but also stale, dated and vaguely distasteful. The audience clearly found that there was nothing particularly funny, or even remarkable, about these fifteen-year-old caricatures. Had there even been a little more supporting plot to go on, it might have been easier to enjoy; but the show relies heavily on laughter to build up momentum, and aside from a sporadic chuckle at the few moments which still held comic value, the audience were unsurprisingly dry. Without the support of a continuously amusing sequence of characters the whole play was just rendered rather meandering and directionless.
Fully Committed really is the sort of writing that doesn’t have a long shelf life; to make it a joy to watch again would clearly involve a large spate of character rewriting. The best you can say is that we did at least end up rooting for Brigstocke’s Sam to succeed in his goal of becoming an actor, and that the ending was at least gratifying in that sense. The show was true to the time in which it was written, with a bank of four phone landline phones for the beleaguered Sam to answer, and that full committal was unfortunately also its downfall in the end. Fans of Brigstocke will have to look to another performance for the characteristically incisive wit they are used to.
Fully Committed Starring Marcus Brigstocke played Underbelly Potterow (venue 358) as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.