An evening of Southern Gothic inspired short stories hosted by an increasingly frustrated and disillusioned Southern US preacher. It certainly doesn’t sound like an obvious premise for a comedy show, and indeed it isn’t a straight stand-up show, but Martin Dunlop does an excellent job of engaging the audience in the character and progressing the story arc through to a quite dark conclusion with some excellent laughs along the way.
The unnamed central preacher begins his sermon by establishing that we, his audience, haven’t been coming to church often enough and we are falling into a life of sin. He promises to share 4 stories with us to help show us all the path of glorious righteousness. Playing all the characters in a selection of willfully historically inaccurate and ridiculous tales, Martin does an admirable job of jumping between the cast of characters and back to the central preacher, he even manages to sneak in some 4th wall breaking directors commentary which shows great humility and awareness of the absurd spectacle on stage.
The show has some rough edges, Martin performed with a few notes on his hands to prompt himself and a couple of times got thrown out of script by technical demons. He handled this remarkably well and by being willing to engage with the audience as himself even in the middle of a character piece he created some of the warmest and funniest moments of the show. It’s a show that benefits from having its rough edges on display, a fully polished version of this show would lose some of its charm.
The creativity and the writing is the true star of the show here, clearly not wanting to shy away from a challenge Martin has written himself a lyrical challenge that he has to summit each night, as he said himself after stumbling on a line “Come on Martin, if you’re going to write it you need to be able to say it”.
This is a great storytelling show, with an ambitious range of characters dexterously performed. The charm is in the rough edges and anyone who enjoys dark absurd storytelling and fancies a break from the standard standup format would do well to check out this show.
Martin Dunlop performs Small Tales of Little Mercy at the Butterfly Club until April 21st