If ‘The Story Beast’ were 10 minutes long, it’d probably be the best show at the Fringe. The exhilarating intro, in which John Henry Falle (of sketch troupe The Beta Males) relates the legend of ‘Beowulf’ in the original gibberish, is matched only by the finale, a sing-along that references Harry Potter but, incredibly, not in a lame, out-of-date way. The intervening moments aren’t in any way bad, but they can’t possibly match up to the white-hot brilliance of their bookends.
Then again, a ‘Story Beast’ lacking the middle bits wouldn’t quite so impressively chart the long arc of storytelling between those two milestones. Following ‘Beowulf’, Falle’s bedraggled Beast (imagine ‘Jackanory’ presented by a hoarse, homeless Hagrid) wanders through a potted history of narrative. There are romantic Celtic folk songs, Grimm fairytales of flowery women, Noddy-like toy towns peopled by cabbage patch characters and an eerie horror story from a distant, demonic age (the ‘90s). There’s even the promise of an over-arching narrative running through certain plot-strands, though a complete tapestry that ties up every loose thread – the sort of thing the Pajama Men strive for at their best – remains beguilingly just out of reach.
The show is still one hell of an achievement, though, and – like fellow Beta Male Adam Blampied’s ‘I am Mr Children Man’ – would sit just as comfortably at the Book Festival across town. On the evidence of their solo efforts, you could even say that these two comics are Beta off alone – although, on second thought, nah, you probably shouldn’t.