‘Bagbeard’ begins with an announcement: ‘“This is a story of hope, love, and monsters.’
More precisely, the second show from rising narrative sketch comedy trio Crybabies – whose 2019 debut ‘Danger Parade’ bagged them an Edinburgh Fringe Best Newcomer nomination – is a satire of sci-fi tropes full of twists and turns, held together by a bonkers plotline and a bevy of gags delivered at rapid speed.
Wide-eyed teacher Chris Mystery (played charmingly by Michael Clarke) is a wannabe scientist with dreams of being accepted into the Institute of Brilliant Scientists. The townspeople mock him for his ambitions – after all, his mentor was driven mad by this pursuit. Chris’s fate takes an unexpected turn when he discovers a monosyllabic alien (James Gault, donning a plastic bag for a beard) in the middle of the woods. He hatches a plan to use his new extraterrestrial ‘friend’ to help him receive the recognition from the IBS he craves, but Victor Valentine – a Men-in-Black-esque hitman played by Ed Jones – is already on the hunt for the eponymous creature
Clarke, Gault, and Jones each play multiple characters in an ambitious show full of complex shifts. In typical sketch comedy fashion, there are plenty of silly puns and wordplay, balanced by the odd whip-sharp moment of social commentary. In one scene revealing Bagbeard’s backstory, his extraterrestrial parents search for a new world to send Bagbeard away from their doomed planet. Worrying about whether their child will adjust to his new surroundings, they’re relieved when they discover Earth, ‘a place where there are more plastic bags than fish!’.
At every turn, meta moments, such as Clarke’s breaking of the fourth wall and the comically shoddy props and costumes, serve as a welcome reminder that the trio is in on the joke.
The show is genuinely bonkers but also entirely lovely: one of the biggest laughs comes in between rapid costume changes, causing Gault’s wig to fall off. Clarke and Gault start corpsing: the pure joy of watching the pair have this much fun made the audience roar.