Review: I am, I am

I am, I am

ADC Theatre, 11pm, until Fri 19 Oct

Here's a joke. You've heard it before? What if I add some chords? Funny now, right?

It seems a shame to me that so much bad musical comedy makes one joke and uses a simple structure to repeat it over and over. How pleased I was, then, as soon as Harry and Lowell of I Am, I Am came on stage, to be certain of no such cheap tricks in this show. They start with physical comedy that keeps reinventing itself, shows off their self-awareness (they've got it in spades, but not in a way that inhibits them at all) and shows how much they love being on stage. It's almost a shame that such energetic people spend all the show in chairs, but instead they channel it into the comedy. A series of quickfire puns follows – a device which, lightening fast, has become a joke in itself. The first song, Hunter Gatherer, forms a theme for the show: a macho facade that doesn't go entirely according to plan. The lyrics are delivered at a great pace, as are the punchlines, but not so that the audience ever miss even a syllable. A tired stand-up might wring a five minute set out of risotto – I Am, I Am get a big laugh and a round of applause, and move to their next focus.

A habit comes across already of taking traditionally hack material and getting more laughs than it was ever due simply by humanising it. It's why their deconstruction of horror films and their Christian ‘call to prayer' are both so hilarious, and why one of the biggest laughs of the evening comes from technical wizardry involving a couple of crisp packets. And it's why, when they start ad-libbing expertly, and inserting bits of spoken material between the songs, it's clear what rounded professionals they are already. It would be easy for them to take a back seat in those spots, but they don't for a second.

Their central number - ‘Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining' – is the most upbeat and the darkest. It has some great surprises, coupled with traditional punchlines. It's remarkable how quickly the audience have warmed to them – people will laugh even if they don't know why. Admittedly, that is rare: these boys know comedy and their show is structured to perfection. Of course, there has to be a lull – I'd say the description of the ‘fake worst person', simply because the audience can't really form an image of the character. It picks up again very quickly, though, building towards the piece de resistance, a catalogue of innuendos based on tube stations. Puns like this are prime material for musical comedy, and the boys don't waste a single one. They stay classy even at their crudest, going to great lengths to explain how much their own song embarrasses them.

It's perhaps a good thing, after such a stellar set, that the finale doesn't seek to top anything we've heard, but to remind you how great a show it's been and how good these guys are. It feels ironic to have described I Am, I Am, by saying so much about what they're not. But, like their mismatched thrones, they are a perfect balance: between the everyday and the grandiose, between confidence and self-deprecation, and between music and humour, using the music to enhance, not excuse, the comedy.

Imogen Sebba

blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories

In this section

Across the site

Best of the Rest