For One Night Only is the second full length theatre show from comedy partners Graham Hicks and Aiden Brooks, and if you read the interview with them on this site last week you could have a little bit of an idea of what it’s all about. But as ever where these two are concerned, things probably really have to be seen to be believed.
Brooks plays seedy, old-school club owner Bernie Sunshine. His retro venue keeps mysteriously burning down, meaning the audience for One Night Only are also the club-goers privy to the Sunshine Club’s last-gasp grand re-opening. Only trouble is, on this auspicious occasion, there’s been no money left to pay the entertainers on the variety bill Bernie had lined up; so in desperation he and comedy partner Les Bryan (Hicks) try and pass themselves off as the night’s special guests as well as the hosts.
It’s not all plain sailing. Les has a sensitive side and thinks their act should incorporate more experimental forms of entertainment, causing friction in their already tense relationship. And so, the stage is set for an hour long mish-mash of vaudeville and surreality that combines conventional, old-fashioned ‘take my wife’ comedy with something altogether more deliciously weird.
The audience has a role to play – there’s banter, the risk of being terrorised by the hosts, a game of Irish bingo and a raffle to keep the party atmosphere going. Designer Ros Henderson’s simple yet garish spangly backdrop enables us to see effectively front and backstage, giving things a kind of Muppet Show-esque sense of theatrical chaos.
Les and Bernie are forced to try and pretend to be a whole host of naff acts, including a club singing diva and ventriloquist, as things build up towards the grand finale. Get into the spirit of Brooks’s and Hicks’s madcap lunacy and you’ll find yourself near helpless with laughter. Their comic timing, sense of the ludicrous and talents for clowning make sure that what could be a cliched idea turns into something really quite unique.
Highlights include a segment where Les tries a novel way of sneaking on stage in between acts in a bid not to be noticed, and Bernie’s attempts at mastering rhythmic gymnastics. Their chemistry in the hypnotist scene is superb, and the final set up with uber-prop The Widowmaker is as skillful as it is completely bonkers.