The Establishment : Le Bureau de Strange

By Colin Flaherty

With the name The Establishment you could easily expect a show lampooning the Upper British classes. Although they had the air of a pair of aristocratic twits about them, these dapper gents (Neil Frost and Dan Lees) instead gave us a daft hour of unbridled joy. They went out of their way to set our expectations as low as possible but ultimately exceeded this level with everyone finding at least something stupid to laugh at.

Lees’ clowning training got a workout as his physicality provided plenty of colour and movement to cover for a lack of traditional narrative. Frost was no slouch as his merest gesture generating huge laughs. They used the entire room as their playground and frequently kept the punters on their toes with plenty of false starts, strange parlour games and lots of silly straw polls. Both were brilliant in indulging in some surreal verbal flights of fancy within their effortless banter that kept us laughing throughout.

Audience participation featured prominently in this show, both leading punters to pre-scripted punchlines as well as letting them flex their impro muscles a little. The opening night audience were bang up for getting involved but Frost and Lees are suitably non-threatening to ensure results from even the most timid crowd.

It was all about comedic play as they assigned roles to audience members and gave them various things to respond to (nothing too taxing except for one “game” punter). The duo had the brilliant knack of manipulating a crowd with the vaguest of suggestions, then sitting back and enjoying the resulting mayhem. Free form sing-a-longs were immense fun and ad hoc party games had us in hysterics at the wacky results.

This seemingly ramshackle and faux unstructured performance is not everyone’s cup of tea but if you allow yourself to get swept up in the anarchy you’re sure to have a whale of a time.

Le Bureau de Strange is on at The Cooper’s Malthouse until April 7