Mime warning: Doctor Brown at the Soho Theatre will mime things at you. That is a very real threat, and we need you to be prepared. Doctor Brown will mime a motorcycle at you, and also a bull. He will loom from out of curtains and hold emotionally strained stare-outs with himself. “Hmm,” you’re thinking. “That all sounds very weird.” Yes. Yes it is. Yes. Yes.
Here’s the thing: to truly appreciate Doctor Brown, you need to take the idea of ‘a mime’ that you currently have scampering around and throwing shapes in your mind and throw it in the bin. Throw that mime in the bin. Don’t deny that right now you’re thinking of striped jumpers and white facepaint. Don’t even pretend that there is not an eerily mute figure in your head performing vulgar motions while wearing white gloves. You’re thinking about queuing to ascend the Eiffel Tower, of throwing continental small change on the ground, of grown-ass humans pretending to be trapped in invisible boxes.
But stop it. Stop. The reason Doctor Brown won the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy award this year isn’t because he is good at miming things, although he is: it’s because the hour-long Befrdfgth show is actually an exercise in expert storytelling. Only not telling, showing. Storyshowing.
There’s a curious lull that comes over an audience when Doctor Brown performs in silence, rather than telling actual jokes with his actual mouth. There are moments when you can hear your own heartbeat thudding in your head. There is a ripple of confusion when Brown actually starts the show, peeking from behind the stage, stealing bags and coats. It’s hard to know when to laugh, sometimes, without looking to the front rows to see what they are doing, like cheating on an exam. Occasionally, your concentration levels will wane, and you will tune out a little, blissfully. It’s oddly relaxing. It’s also very funny.
Normally when you leave a show you are perhaps tittering lightly, or recounting the best bits. When you leave the Soho Theatre after Doctor Brown’s show you are blinking and confused, the sound suddenly back on. You are wandering around disorientated and unsure quite what you have just seen. Then a sweaty topless man hugs you. In conclusion: Weird. Weird. Good.
The current run of Doctor Brown: Befrdfgth is sold out, but there are still tickets for 25 March-20 April. For more information see the Soho Theatre website. We saw this show on a press ticket.