Character comic Lolly Adefope expertly sends up the open mic scene – a wild west of egos and over-confidence – in her Fringe debut.
Her premise is straightforward: we’re the audience at an unnamed town’s community hall open mic talent competition (top prize: vodka, lime and soda vouchers), and Adefope shows off her skills by playing all the slightly deluded contestants.
Wendy Parks hosts the show: a Brummie limelight hogger who overplays the importance of her role as compere and boasts about her job in the movie business - as a runner - for 40 years. She introduces first time stand-up and ‘mad’ one in the office Gemma (easily Adefope’s strongest character), a system-smashing political activist-comedian just called ‘X’, and old man Horald (not Harold), who slowly reveals he’s father to a celebrity son.
They’re all well observed and subtly played; each with witty idiosyncrasies exaggerated for comic effect but never too cartoonish. Parks displays her authority with some strong shoulder popping, Gemma’s jittery delivery has just the right balance of excitement and nerves, and X’s pretentious swagger is nicely undermined by his misinformed rants.
There’s strong writing at work, too, with zinging gags hidden among the character’s non-punchlines. There are even shrewdly written touches in Adefope’s pre-recorded radio ads that cover costume changes, even if the device doesn’t quite make sense in the context of the talent show (why would a host whip the crowd into a frenzy and introduce the next act, only for an advert to then immediately halt the applause?)
The 24-year-old comic gets a bit caught up in her meta finale. It’s a smart idea, but she’s doesn’t quite pull it off smoothly. Nevertheless, this is a strong debut from a sharp writer-performer. Adefope shows plenty of talent behind her characters’ apparent lack thereof.