Review: Crybabies' Silly Sci-Fi Caper Will Have You Weeping With Laughter
Comedy venues don't have right arms, but if they did, most would give them up to be Soho Theatre.
At five to nine on a Monday night, the place is so stuffed to the gunwales, one false move might lose you your glass of house red. The secret, it seems, is as simple as hosting comedians with a pedigree of the sort that'll coax you out of the house on a rimy night at the business end of the week.
One of the acts doing exactly that tonight (and it is one of a few — another of this venue's secrets is its unrelenting schedule) is sparky sketch trio, Crybabies, and their intoxicatingly idiotic sci-fi romp, 'Bagbeard'.
The title sounds screwy, and it certainly tees up what's to come. Wide-eyed-yet down-at-heel scientist Chris Mystery (say it fast) has one last chance to impress the Institute of Brilliant Scientists (IBS) before his career is permanently in the toilet. When he happens upon a peculiar creature in the woods (enter James Gault's monosyllabic, carrier bag-coiffeured Bagbeard), he smells fame and fortune. And thus commences the insanity — a comedy casserole bubbling over with cockamamy characters (think an egocentric mayor siphoning off public funds to research how to kiss his own face); production values so schlocky that mannequins stand in for actors busy playing someone else; and marvellous one-liners: "Midnight? That's the latest time there is!"
League of Gentlemen/Booshesque in places (it certainly helps that the moustachioed Gault recalls a youthful Julian Barrett), Palladium panto in others (that'll be Michael Clarke's full-of-beans protagonist), 'Bagbeard' owes its biggest debt to 80s blockbusters. There are shades of E.T., Back to the Future, and — perhaps most surprisingly — Dirty Dancing. There are opening credits and everything; it's positively cinematic.
But 'Bagbeard' sails way beyond mere parody. While it won't be scooping The Banshees of Inisherin to Best Screenplay, the plot's neatly studded with callbacks and twists. There is even the twang of heartstrings, thanks to a preposterous love story between Bagbeard and Ed Jones' confused FBI agent Victor Valentine. In one rare moment of silence, someone from the audience lets out an 'awww'. But mostly tonight, it's gales of laughter.
So long as there is comedy as good as this, Monday nights are for going out.
Crybabies: Bagbeard, Soho Theatre, until 21 January, and then 7-11 March
Last Updated 17 January 2023