Mad Etiquette presents duo Dan Lees and Neil Frost, who make up comedy company The Establishment. In their show, Le Bureau de Strange, they take to the stage in mis-matching suits and bowler hats with umbrellas clamped under their arms. They start by… well, actually I’m not quite sure. They come down the stairs and sit on the front row, beaming at us from under their hats, before doing some rather silly movements with umbrellas. Then, as latecomers arrive, they do it again so as not to leave anyone out. Then they do it again. And again. By the end I find it quite hilarious.
They go on to ask the audience how we would have liked the show to begin, and they take these suggestions on board and give each one a good go. What follows is an hour of similarly silly bits and pieces. This is the show, all of it, and if it’s not for you then it’s not for you. The pair even give you a chance to leave. Coming clean about the silliness of the hour they invite audience members to sneak out in a moment where their backs are turned. Whilst some cheeky onlookers accepted the invite, I was glued to my seat. It just so happens that silliness, when done well, is something I can’t get enough of.
It would be wrong to think that what the pair are doing is, in any way, easy. They are clowns of the highest order and their timing is millisecond perfect, their rapport with the audience is quick and slick, their relationship with each other is a joy to behold: these are excellent clownmedians (clown comedians?). I am particularly bowled over by a cricket skit with a wonderful punchline and the final song is, to put it concisely, brilliant.
Their improvisations are witty and charming and the pair keep the audience on our toes at all times, often asking for suggestions and even conducting us in a rendition of a gameshow theme we’d never heard before. They probe and tease the audience to see how different types of silliness are landing and by the end they have us all singing along. Perhaps some moments of their back and forthing go on for slightly too long, but when being silly I think this comes as part of the package. It’s good to throw as much silliness at the wall to see what sticks.
This show is infectiously funny. The pair are excellent performers and have the audience laughing with the slightest of movements or the smallest of remarks. They have a fantastic relationship with each other and their onlookers. The pair are back at the fringe for one more night on 27 May, where they earnestly promised us they’d actually do the show, instead of being so silly. I very much hope they don’t.
The Establishment: Le Bureau de Strange is playing the Brighton Spiegeltent: Bosco until 27 May as part of the Brighton Fringe. For more information and tickets, see the Brighton Fringe website.