Two Punks And A Tandem – Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol

Two Punks And A Tandem photo Michael Eddy

1985 in Penzance and Thatcher’s legacy has taken hold with high levels of youth unemployment, leaving a generation with no work, no money, no hope. Two guys are prepared to do something about that; a charity bike ride on a tandem from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Nothing can go wrong as long as they have brought the tin opener for their can of baked beans. Oh!

If you like that kind of humour, this hour long show, surely designed with half an eye on Edinburgh, will appeal. Silly Boys Theatre revels in its name and the show is at its best when Callum Mitchell and Seamas Carey chuck themselves into the episodic routines that make up the journey down country; inebriation, police cat calls, late night seductions, mushrooms, hallucinations and even a turd preying in the waters like Jaws. It’s The Young Ones without Rik Mayall’s high rope anarchy and without the judicious editing that made that show so tight even as it appeared to flout all conventions.

The material is solid but the show as is, isn’t fully ready. For every good idea (and there are many) there are also sketches that drag out too long, and others that don’t raise a laugh at all. They rather fudge the political – the one scene of serious exposition with lashings of Hollywood ‘make something of your life’ speeches is excruciatingly awkward (and not in a good way). One won’t spend time after, over a pint, feeling nostalgia. It’s a show made by people who weren’t born under Thatcherism and it shows. We have the big hair and the hits but no sense of the pain that Thatcher and her cronies inflicted on the working classes. It was real and it hurt. At no point does the piece scratch that surface.

Even with these reservations one can’t help feeling there is something rather promising happening with Silly Boys Theatre. The performances at the sweaty, intimate Wardrobe (which desperately needs an audience configuration rethink – anything past the first few rows blocks off seeing anything that isn’t played standing up) are open, natural and likeable; the songs are catchy, the violent slapstick bruisingly wince-inducing and the small space is filled with hearty laughter. Go expecting silliness, not politics, and you’re on to a winner.

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