From the outset, the Irish comic trio Sean Finegan, Conor McKenna and Sean Flanagan (aka Foil, Arms and Hog) know how to get the audience on their side. Before the show properly begins, Hog enacts a mock ‘tour’ of the packed McEwan Hall, pulling up members of the crowd to follow him. Similarly, Foil requests the three be introduced on stage with a rendition of their ‘theme song’ (which is incredibly simple for those uninitiated), creating a thunderous row which generates a strong communal vibe, which is maintained for the entire hour. Perhaps their youthful and boyish appearance of the trio instantly endears the crowd to them (despite them actually being in their 30s), but they don’t need any advantages. As this show demonstrates, these guys are professionals.
Their talent is clear from their adept skill at the various comedy they perform, featuring props, mimes, singing, improvisation and sketches. From their sharp and funny accents, to their legitimately impressive Gregorian chanting, they are masters of manipulating their voices. Their song parodies particularly stand out, filled with both clever gags and appropriately stupid slapstick. Such vocal flexibility is matched by their physical dexterity. After climbing atop each other in their first sketch, ‘How to Hold a Baby’ (with one of the men being the baby), the rest of the show is filled with perfectly coordinated gestures and expressions, moving around with such comedic precision you would think their lanky bodies were suspended from strings.
Between these slickly choreographed routines (the ending of which is handily signaled by a high-hat on the stage), the three improvise and banter whilst the next sketch is set up. It’s here that Foil, Arms & Hog further demonstrate their ease and skill, engaging the audience and each other, with enthusiasm and sharp wit. Indeed, whilst bouncing off each other in these ‘breaks’, they frequently crack up and giggle at each other’s antics. What works so well for the show is what works for them – they are having fun, and so the audience is too. Even when they pick on audience members, they do so with such charm that it always feels comfortable. Everyone is in on the joke.
Such jokes are frequent and effective, albeit not too deep. Despite recurring gags and smart call-backs, there is no exact through-line to their routines. While definitely entertaining, Foil, Arms and Hog maintain a light-hearted and goofy style, lacking any grand statement or particular relevance. Of course, they aren’t trying to, but some might find their scattershot approach unfocused rather than multi-faceted.
Regardless of this potentially soft aftermath, Foil, Arms and Hog are a terrifically funny bunch in the moment, able to slide between well-oiled routines and spontaneous antics. The electric chemistry between them extends to the audience. Despite their broad caricatures and large crowd, the three leave you with this warm intimate feeling, never losing their accessibility. It feels no matter how large the space, these Irish comics will always be able to fill it with big laughs, and leave it with huge smiles.
Foil, Arms & Hog – Craicling
Underbelly Bristo Square – McEwan Hall (Venue 302)
August 4-26 , 21:00
Image: The Corner Shop PR