Deep in the heart of the Cowgate, the repurposed Bongo Club kitted out as a Fringe venue is suddenly doused in darkness. Scarcely any light filters through the cracks under the doors as a caricatured voice booms out of the speakers. As if it weren’t abundantly clear that the voice giving us instructions on how to swell applause is the impressively distinctive one of Paul Foot, he enthusiastically ‘reveals’ this to thunderous laughter, before blasting on the lights and becoming accessible through sight as well as sound.
As is to be expected, Foot’s eccentricity is not hidden: he dons a green leather jacket (with the leather largely removed, leaving seams visible), metal-studded black shoes and an amber necklace that would not look out of place on my grandmother. Of course, his famous mullet is present.
His physical presence consists of an exaggerated contorting twitch and frantic pacing of the stage as he stutters and smiles his way through an hour of, what he refers to as, ‘humours’. His first ‘humour’ (and several subsequent ones) comes in the form of a ‘disturbance’ – one of a wildly different set of realisations, stories or ideas written at a point Foot considered himself disturbed. The use of anecdotal experiences results in a varied and undefinable collection of weirdly funny ‘disturbances’., That they are all so unpredictable is part of the joke, and part of the image Foot portrays.
Semi-oxymoronic phrases pepper the set (‘tall babies’, ‘top paedophile’) as he panders to the human love of the absurd. A penchant for improvised interludes manifests itself in the form of a couple of ridiculous interactions: as an audience member leaves for the bathroom early on in the show he steals her chair away, resulting in a brilliantly confused exchange upon her return. Later, while chatting with the audience, he meets a man called ‘Shoebrick’, upon which he riffs frequently, exposing how seemingly ludicrous a name this is. Using audience participation is by no means groundbreaking, especially at the Fringe, but it serves to extend Foot’s witty weirdness as far as possible.
All in all, while Foot doesn’t reinvent the wheel within Baby Strikes Back! he simply pushes his classic Foot-ish charm. Nearing the end of the set, Foot (an openly gay man) proposes a fascinating theory that explains the cause of homosexuality. If Foot’s comedic talent and generally oddity doesn’t convince, hopefully, this potential for enlightenment will.
Baby Strikes Back! is on at Underbelly, Belly Dancer
At 19:10 until 25th August (excluding 13th)
Buy tickets here
Image: Steve Ullathorne