Ali Brice provided me with one of my favourite Fringe moments last year. As I sat with a bunch of strangers in a darkened cellar, hands thrust aloft, chanting ‘CHIPS! CHIPS! CHIPS!’ in a high-pitched voice, a big stupid grin on my face, I felt that something had gone right in my life to lead me that time and place.
Brice makes a welcome return in 2015 with the same hapless unlucky-in-love character, Eric Meat, a man with a disposition so sunny that he interprets the absence of his beloved (and all her things) as a sure sign of kidnap.
And so the chase is on for clues – an adventure on which we meet a host of other bizarre characters and creations, enthusiastically and energetically performed by a natural, endlessly watchable clown with confident stage presence (not that there is a stage in this dingy room at the back of Heroes at the Hive, where the air conditioning and stale beer pong does prove distracting).
The crowd are involved, prodded and poked affectionately as they help to steer the direction of the comedy at points – and in amongst all the nonsense things do get very weird indeed. I was a bit too hungover and delicate for a disturbing moment involving a baby mask and… well, you’ll see. I wouldn’t be surprised if I woke up screaming seeing a couple of images from this show in years to come. In a nice way. There’s a genuine unpredictability and Mighty Boosh-esque sense of oddness and anarchy, and very little in the way of coherent plot. Still, it’s hard not to feel sorry for poor old Eric, such is Brice’s cuddly vulnerability in character.
Although I perhaps didn’t feel as involved in the story as last year, and it sometimes relies on audience reaction for the big laughs, there are plenty of gags and colour to keep you engaged and giggling, and come the end of the hour that same big stupid grin was there again. This is another smorgasbord of fun and oddness from Brice, for whom bigger and brighter things surely beckon.