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Buddhism: Is it just for Losers?
Published on Wednesday, 12 June 2013

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4 stars

The Nightingale (venue website)
30-31 May, 1 Jun, 9:00pm-9:40pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 World Premiere.
 Warning: Contains strong language.

Matt Rudkin’s delightful little show – packed with low-fi props and silly-yet-clever ideas – had its audience in joyful fits before it had even properly begun. Two earnest young men, dressed in white shirts and black ties, aim to arrange the seating so that tall people are at the back and smaller ones at the front. When their system falls apart, the frustration is delicious. And their continued interplay, supposedly setting up the show, is genuinely and twistedly hilarious.

In fact, one of this show’s weaknesses is that it’s never quite as funny as that intro.  It’s important to bear in mind that the intro is very, very funny indeed, but it’s still a shame that the bit before the show proper is the best part.  Elsewhere, it’s a little hit and miss – or, to be fair, hit and slightly baffling.

The bits that work – such as a fly explaining just why it loves dung so much – really work, and even have big solid proper ideas behind them. Other parts, like a kind of absurdist improv, are less successful. Though still entertaining, the show had moments which left me with the very strong feeling that it needed another critical eye, just to rein back some of the self-indulgence.

Because Matt Rudkin is very, very funny. Not just funny and inventive, but funny in a genuinely fresh new way, and funny with real ideas standing behind it. Once in a while, that funniness topples over into what feels like in-jokes. Rudkin is brilliant when you feel like you’re part of his smart, clever brain; but when you feel he’s riffing for the sake of it because he’s won you over, it can get a bit wearing.

Having said that, this show nearly ended with the entire audience mass-hallucinating The Cheeky Girls… which would have made it, for me, a faultless piece of comedy. Sadly, this piece wasn’t the ending, and the real finale was a far less inspired song. Which sums up the problem with this show: too many ideas of varying quality mean the really incredible ones don’t get to shine. Believe me, though, they are really incredible ones. With a little fine-tuning, this could be amazing.

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