Old Fitz Theatre, January 21
Given that corruption is now a fully legitimate tool in the democratic process (if it wasn’t always), perhaps we should look at legalising other previously reviled behavioural forms. What about such low acts as cutting other people’s kite-strings, or obliging actors to eat broken glass at horror-movie auditions? Perhaps recidivism in these matters could also win the imprimatur of the highest levels of power, or how is a person still burdened by a moral compass supposed to muddle through?
Rob Johnson and Harry Milas have the answer: write and perform one of the funniest sketch comedy shows you’ll see this side of politics. The Recidivists has precursors in the long, proud history of student reviews, Dada, the Pythons and the rest, with the crucial caveat that Johnson and Milas are not just good writers, their prowess as actors thickens and deepens their comedy. They also had the nous to seek outside eyes and ears, so director Pierce Wilcox helped them get their recidivism really humming. Meanwhile, fattening the entertainment factor, pianist Allister Haire leads a guitar/reeds/violin quartet that adds zany musical flourishes.
What do you do if you’re being pursued by a hairy monster in your dreams? You could seek the services of a famed Swiss psychiatrist whose surname starts with “J” (although no longer a silent one). But what if he’s crazier than you, and obsessed with puns on his own name? Milas’s Jung is hysterical, and Johnson matches him at every turn – other than the magician routine with the eggs, which is better seen than described.
The flow of laughs diminishes late in the hitherto snappy, 70-minute show, but then picks up again, with a brief respite where the pair pull focus for Johnson to give us a burst of fully interwoven sadness and joy in the mimed flying of a kite – one worthy of being an excerpt from Slava’s Snowshow.
Beyond the high-calibre comedic writing and acting, what really makes The Recidivists work is the rapport shared by Johnson and Milas. It’s there in the timing and physical humour, but most particularly in the adlibbed fragments. In fact these are so priceless you wonder if the duo shouldn’t have given themselves more elbow room on the improvisatory front. After all, there’s no law against it.