Wed 5th – Mon 31st August 2015


Laurie Atkinson

at 11:05 on 8th Aug 2015



The Underbelly's sell-out double act Goodbear explores the deepest recesses of the comic mind to produce a sketch show of formidable scope and stature. This is an hour of first-class fringe entertainment that will fly by all too quickly, and have 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' playing in your head for hours to come.

Returning for a second year at the Fringe, Joe Barnes and Henry Perryment's Goodbear is a character-based comedy duo that flits between existential crisis and pop-culture parody at a relentless pace. Cinematic convention is their chief fodder, and no cliché is safe as the pair jump from the trenches, to space exploration, to period drama. The formula might quickly run thin, were it not for the constant uncertainty as to who is 'straight' and who 'funny' in each sketch - and the supreme malleability of Henry Perryment's face! The 'blockbuster' feel benefits immensely from Perryment's carefully crafted score, a careful compilation of themes all too familiar, but rarely graced with two lads from Leeds as their protagonists.

Goodbear's moments of physical comedy are particularly impressive. Not boorishly erotic, or clawingly slapstick, innovative sequences such as the vertical bed-scene between secret agent Perryment and long-suffering wife Barnes had the audience in stitches without a single 'joke' being uttered.

But there is another level to Goodbear's production, one that is as fascinating as it is enthralling. Every sketch figures as another fragment in the confused biographies of Barnes and Perryment's comic personas, who experience them, like us, within a surreal framing 'metasketch'. Don't be alarmed, this isn't Beckett! But I couldn't help feeling as I left the Wee Coo that I had just seen something very funny and very clever, and almost hadn't noticed for laughing so much.

Yet perhaps more surprising still was the pair's admission that they and their director, George Chilcott, are running a three man operation at the Fringe this year. Their plea was that "if you liked this show, tell people to come and see it", and I can only oblige. Goodbear is comedy that has profound ideas, and then does impersonations of them. Go and see if you can spot the lyrics in their philosophy.


Abigail Smith

at 11:55 on 8th Aug 2015



Surrounded by a slightly drunken and very happy audience, Henry Perryment and Joe Barnes were on excellent form, whizzing through a cinematic sketch show which had the sold out Wee Coo in stitches. Opening with a very exuberant mime to Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Goodbear kept the audience in high spirits throughout.

The show is amazingly polished, and the pair seem like they’re reading each other’s minds at some points. The scenes, however unrelated, morphed seamlessly into one another; credit here must go to the fantastic music and sound, best of all when a spaceship alarm slowly turned imperceptibly into church bells. The pair responded to the music instantly, changing into different characters just with the tilt of a head or a raised eyebrow. Their physical work was some of the show’s funniest, and definitely got the loudest laughs. One scene, featuring a spy and his beleaguered wife, sees them writhing around on an imaginary bed, with gestures so overblown they look like they’re trying to do ballet in treacle.

The show doesn't pay much attention to the audience, and so I felt like I was watching every pretentious movie ever made, but a version where the characters say what they’re actually thinking. As Perryment’s army general recites Wilfred Owen in the trenches, Barnes points out that he just wanted to know whether he needs a bayonet. The scenes let something cinematic build and intensify, before one character points out its ridiculousness. This formula works brilliantly, even if it does get a little tired by the end, leaving a few sketches a bit samey.

There is no doubt that Perryment and Barnes are excellent performers. Yet their array of accents is dubious at best, with the Northern turning very Australian at points, but that somehow made it even funnier; best of all was the Spanish priest, gasping at how “spicy” someone’s confession was, and rubbing himself along to it.

The show’s brief warned it would be existential and it was very intense - with deaths and murders left, right and centre and an oddly emotional ending. To close the show, the pair return to all the sketches we've just seen, and we get a pretty dark explanation of why Elton John keeps playing. It doesn't quite make enough sense to tie the sketches together, and was one of the show’s weaker moments. In spite of this, the show is original, quick-witted, and a brilliant way to spend an hour.


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