This is one of those shows where I’m undecided on whether this idea works better or worse than it should. It’s certainly good: Dom O’Keefe is likeable, funny and a talented impressionist.
And Free Willy From the Perspective of the Whale is a sweet show. O’Keefe is a charming stage presence and his show mostly about the saccharine film of the title, ending on a similarly feel-good note. So, you can expect a very sugary experience.
In practice it’s a 50-minute-odd extended riff on the oddities of the 1993 film, guiding the audience through the frankly ludicrous plot by way of a variety of character impressions by O’Keefe himself. He’s accompanied by audio clips, a series of intentionally shoddy slides, and the audience themselves; presumably because watching a man do an unbroken one-man version of Free Willy would get very tiresome very quickly.
A solid third of the jokes are self-conscious groaners, generally of the good kind that make you roll your eyes and laugh rather than just the former. The remainder of the gags are either crude exaggerations of the film’s cast, or just straight describing Free Willy’s bizarre plot moments, both of which prove beyond all doubt that the right source material can see a lot of your comedy writing itself.
For the most part this is all works. O’Keefe’s weird idea results in a pleasant way to spend just under an hour at the Fringe. The only real issue is pacing. The laughs feel a liiiittle too spaced out in places and a few payoffs do not justify the time spent getting to them. I’m inclined to suspect that this will iron itself out as the run continues so don’t let that put you off; this all has the big disclaimer of ‘preview’ stamped across it. A nice way to spend your time, especially for childhood fans of Free Willy.
★★★ (Probably a four for fans of Free Willy)