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Published on Tuesday, 22 May 2012

3 stars

Laughing Horse @ The Temple (venue website)
21-27 May, 5:45pm-6:45pm
Reviewed by Catherine Meek

 Suitable for age 18+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.
 World Premiere.
 2-for-1 tickets for Friends of the Fringe members.

Twiglets, cheese on sticks, vol au vents and cup-cakes – the table is set for Clive’s party guests, but they’re late. We know they’re late ‘cos he’s pacing up and down looking at his watch, and anxiously rearranging paper plates to hide his idle scoffing of cheesy puffs. There’s no mistaking the occasion: he sports an oversized badge screaming It’s My Birthday, tastelessly clashing with his loud floral shirt.

I don’t want to be a party pooper, but I’m sceptical about his claims to be 36 – I reckon he was older than five when the B52s hit the charts with Happy Birthday in 1981.  But, whatever.  He’s looking a bit sad in this get-up at any age, and I’m hoping he won’t choke from the elastic, tight round his chin, keeping his paper hat on.

A “comedy about a man who befriends a balloon” was a gamble for me, but after countless serious shows this Fringe, I thought I could do with “a few chuckles”.  Ahem. They were on me.

For half an hour, I watched Clive party with a red balloon with a face drawn on it. Say no more.

Yet the weird thing is that, as time went on, I too lost touch with the fact that this was a balloon – an inanimate object – and that he wasn’t really talking back at Clive, we were just listening to pre-recorded lines. Plus, it’s cipher Clive who noticeably comes to life here.

In the company of his new friend Balloon (they choose his name together), he plays charades, snacks on cheese on sticks – of course Balloon can’t eat them! – and plays a guessing game (B? Balloon!). That’s it. We, the audience, look on, like spies through the keyhole, speechless at what goes on behind closed doors.

Still, it’s all good clean fun, and I came out smiling – though if it had been longer than half an hour this pleasure would no doubt have eluded me. The rest of the audience was apparently as bemused as I.

The problem is, when you have no idea what to expect, it takes a while to allow yourself to enjoy something so banal.  In all honestly, for the first 10 minutes or more, I was inwardly rolling my eyes. (After that it was fine; the half pint of lager had kicked in.)

Still, after a tough day at the office you might like to stop by on the way home… at least for a gentle reminder that, hey, life doesn’t have to be that serious and there are always options. Let’s face it: Clive might just as easily have turned his back on Balloon, and resorted to playing It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To instead of Happy Birthday.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.