Ben Mepsted: Middle Class Idiots

Fri 1st – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

David Harris

at 21:13 on 3rd Aug 2014

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Ben Mepsted’s Middle Class Idiots is a show with some good ideas and a lot of potential, and whilst it is not always as well-executed as it could be, it still provides some quality morning entertainment.

Mepsted presents five caricatures of – as the title suggests – middle class idiots, all of which are quickly recognisable: the self-help guru, the politician, the actor, the celebrity’s son, and the ex-talent show contestant. The show is structured simply, progressing through the characters one at a time, with brief pauses in between while Mepsted puts on a suit, a tie, or (for the finale) a dress. This is effective, but slightly fragmented, and I think it could be developed by the use of some over-arching narrative between the characters.

The sense of fragmentation isn’t helped by the fact that the scenes are not always ended satisfactorily. Only one of Mepsted’s idiots ends his slot with a proper punchline, and it was the best moment of the show: very funny, but also giving a great conclusion to the preceding routine. Applying this throughout would improve the show considerably.

That said, each of Mepsted’s characters elicit laughs from the audience due to skilful acting and writing. There is occasionally an over-reliance on the former; there are brief periods where the funny lines come to a halt, and the audience is reduced to laughing at the funny accent or silly mannerisms Mepsted puts on. Whilst this is not unfunny, the level of amusement can be inconsistent.

Something I would like to see more of is audience participation; this was very well accomplished with the first character, who tries to teach a patron the North Korean national anthem in the name of becoming more like Kim Jong-Il in order to improve their life. (Yes, really.) Unfortunately, it is not continued for the rest of the show. However, perhaps this is sensible for a 10:40 performance; as Mepsted notes at the beginning, it is likely that some of the audience will still be hungover.

If you’re up early and after a laugh, you could do a lot worse than this show. Mepsted has the potential to go far.

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Henry Holmes

at 01:48 on 4th Aug 2014

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In a tiny darkened room far away at the top of a bar at practically the crack of dawn (10:40), Ben Mepsted performed his series of ‘middle class’ characters, a range of somewhat twisted individuals from a corrupt politician to a deranged self-help speaker. This could have been framed in some way as part of the show, as someone just watching on a whim would just see what might easily have been any sequence of unrelated characters.

There was quite a range of quality in the characters; the weaker ones seemed to just rely on funny accents and stereotypes for laughs; Wayne Rooney’s son going to Cambridge is really a one note joke, and that particular skit probably deserved more effort. Despite this, there were moments of genius in other characters; the most successful was really the most unrealistic and absurd: a West End Actor who feuded with Judi Dench and was subsequently taken in by Tupac Shakur, a tale that ended in tragedy. Unfortunately, his Tupac accent was not on par with what was admittedly the best Judi Dench impression I’ve ever seen. In that skit, there was a creativity and a unique voice that the others lacked.

The finale was a washed-up X Factor singer in what was admittedly a very flattering dress on Mepsted - there was a danger of making a 'man in a dress' joke but it was luckily avoided - and the corrupt politician with very obvious real life influences, whose appearance showed what was fairly promising satire,was amusing, if slightly heavy-handed.

There was also an issue with the endings of each sketch. It was often unclear that a change was coming, although the greatest line of the entire show came from the conclusion of the whole Judi Dench saga. It was a truly outrageous pun that honestly is my favourite joke of the entire fringe so far. Unfortunately, the rest of the show couldn’t really compare.

To be fair, there were some very funny aspects to this show, but the inconsistency between the various characters let it down and there was too much reliance on silly accents, tired clichés and bog standard jokes.

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