Sam Simmons Lacks His Trademark Silliness In New Show Away In A Stranger

Sam Simmons: Away in a Stranger, Soho Theatre ★★★☆☆

By Sam Russell Last edited 33 months ago

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Sam Simmons Lacks His Trademark Silliness In New Show Away In A Stranger Sam Simmons: Away in a Stranger, Soho Theatre 3

New show Away in a Stranger sees Australia’s most surreal of sons, Sam Simmons, take on the unenviable task of leading an evening of 'Christmas Carol Karaoke'. There’s no need to brush up on your Good King Wenceslas though, as Simmons instead subjects well-known pop-songs to a hostile lyrical takeover, leaving the audience aiding and abetting the comic’s bizarre musical musings on linty jeans, giving boiled eggs to bus drivers, murderers and bay leaves.

If an hour of silly songs seems a touch underwhelming compared to the impossibly original, ground-breaking fare the Edinburgh-prize winning comic has previously treated us to, it’s because it is. Without enough ambition to back it up, his absurdity becomes a little less convincing, and the jokes a little less inclined to land. Simmons’ inherent eccentricities and delivery afford him some leeway, and it’ll help that Christmas is a time for goodwill, but what we’re left with, though odd enough to charm in parts, is all a bit too rough and erratic to truly convince.

Perhaps most worryingly here is that Sam Simmons, a man who can only be adequately described through a format that involves taking an adjective and following it up with the word 'silly' (eg. the aggressively silly Sam Simmons, the militantly silly Sam Simmons, the unashamedly silly Sam Simmons…) at times, struggles to convince us he’s actually that weird at all, and not just a little sleep-deprived.

Even the festive-themed supporting characters feel less ridiculous than they might have been. Whimsically joined on stage by Jorge, the Nativity Llama, Simmons encourages the arrival of Mr Christmas Tradition himself — Petey Pepperneck. Pepperneck’s 'summoning' is the most unusual set-piece in the show, providing us the closest glimpse into the Simmons we know, but even that fails to set pulses racing.

In the end, it feels like Christmas Day has passed you by without you getting the present you begged for all year. Don’t let it ruin the holidays though; Away in a Stranger is a show which still buys you some socks, and filled your surrealist stocking with enough knickknacks to keep you mildly entertained until Boxing Day.

Sam Simmons: Away in a Stranger runs at Soho Theatre until 5 January 2019. Prices start at £11.

Last Updated 14 December 2018