Who is Jean? Go the Distance

Sat 6th – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Kate Abnett

at 09:01 on 21st Aug 2011

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Who is Jean? completely packed out their tiny venue, with people crammed next to each other on benches and sitting on the aisle steps. Perhaps due to our close proximity to one another, audience members endured a heavy amount of audience participation good naturedly.

The sketch troupe are clearly good friends, and it was clear throughout that the performers themselves were having a good time. There was a great feeling of solidarity between Who Is Jean? and their audience, as if we were all having a laugh together. At times we literally were, as the group corpsed throughout – however, they didn’t mind, so neither did we.

Although a very vague plot trundled along (or erratically flailed around) in the background, the show is essentially – and proudly – a steaming pile of random. Jokes were muddled together in an order that made as much sense as the name of this show (“A formatting error”, one performer casually admitted, swiftly moving on to chat with a talking jacket or have an operation to become a boot, or something).

The most fun was had on the way to punchlines, with the finales often predictable and less amusing than the winding path of nonsense we were taken on to reach them. Some of the loudest laughs this show gained were from improvised banter when cues were missed or the audience was involved.

The lack of professionalism in this show is part of its charm. The material is badly written and performed endearingly ineptly. Do not let these details stop you going to see it. This is an hour of fun from performers whose enthusiasm has you on their side from their first whooping, high-fiving entrance on stage, through a stripping show (paint, not clothing), a man eating malteasers off the floor (“hairy, it it?”, his cast-mate asks) and right out the other side, a bit dishevelled and feeling confusedly uplifted. Never a dull moment, always a daft one, you’ll have gone the distance before you know it.

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Lise McNally

at 09:24 on 21st Aug 2011

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You have to give credit to free comedy which can keep people in their seats, especially if that seat is actually squashing up on the stairs. The packed venue of The Banshee Labryinth made for a cosily sweaty atmosphere, which was appropriate given just how up close and personal we were all going to get. Except high fives, bared chests and builders’ bums, as well as multiple occasions of audience participation. Yep, don’t bother sitting near the back in an attempt to hide, they WILL find you, they WILL make you read things aloud.

Who is Jean? Go the Distance is an epic tale of trial and trouble. Or rather, three rather likable idiots Niall, Clarisse and James have to run a race to overcome their deepest fears (of water, giving up, and “his mum not loving him” (?) respectively). Although to be honest, the plot isn’t really that important, in fact at times it is barely discernible. Rather, it is from the utterly random but charming sketches along the way that the true comedy emerges.

Despite the clumsily punctuated title, it is actually a slick and fast paced production delivered with energy and panache. Just the right amount of improvisation keeps the dialogue fresh and fun, and the camaraderie between the three performers is clear. Although the first awful milkshake joke had me worried that Clarisse (Loughrey) was an agonising example of “unfunny women who do comedy”, she really came into her own as the show unfolded, proving herself so much more than the token girl. Her portrayal of James’ mum was hysterical, one of the best moments in the show. James Stewart’s deadpan delivery and Niall McCamley’s dazzling one liners also deserve praise. Indeed, they were rewarded with tears of laughter on several occasions.

And this is really where Who is Jean? becomes worth watching. It’s just really really funny. Three mates having a great time on stage and making sure their audience do too. The comedians’ enthusiasm and energy is positively catching, and I don’t think a single person left the room without the proverbial aching ribs. I wouldn’t have felt cheated if I’d had to pay for the ticket, true testament to the value of a free show. While it may not be the most flawlessly executed or polished piece at the fringe, I guarantee you’ll get far more than your money’s worth of laughs.

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