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Colin Hoult's Carnival Of Monsters
Published on Thursday, 27 August 2009

Colin Hoult, perhaps best known to radio fans and Fringe veterans as one half of comedy double act Colin and Fergus, returns with Carnival of Monsters - a surreal, outrageous and occasionally terrifying parade of character-based sketches let down only by its misleading poster.

The poster features a grinning Hoult, greened up as some kind of Frankenstein's monster, and suggests at first glance a horror-schlock standup set - which is pretty far from the truth. That's not to say I've any idea how the poster-makers should have approached Carnival of Monsters: it is a varied and wide-ranging fantasy which defies easy description.

It is also a showcase for Hoult's fantastic writing - some of the most powerful scenes are his monologues, the best of which, set on the Tube, still gives me shivers. His heightened delivery and mastery of the peculiarities of the language is Poe-like, or even Lovecraftian.

Beside the horror, he also showcases some monsters that are all too real. I felt the Len Parker character overstayed his welcome, but found Anna Mann, a once-gorgeous star of stage and screen, to be hilariously well-observed, all breathless desire and superficiality.

There is a lot to admire and very little to fault with Hoult's carnival. The jokes and broad humour are balanced perfectly by the quieter and tenser moments, all of which is enhanced by a very capable supporting cast (singing policeman, ballerina, baboon). They've managed to solve the poster problem as well: if you see it now, it will likely be covered over with rave reviews from across the spectrum of Fringe coverage. Roll up while the carnival is still in town.

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