Review by Cicely Binford
Ben Russell and Xavier Michelides pair up for an ‘absurdist character-based dark comedy’ about a duo opening a show to a completely empty audience, and frustratingly, they’ve titled it Nö Shöw. Frustratingly, because in order to write this review, they’ve forced me to look up how to type umlauts. I don’t know why they’ve even bothered using them even after having seen the show, but so be it.
Russell and Michelides will be forgiven for this small, temporary nuisance, however, because the show, co-created and produced by Maggie Looke, is that good, and I can’t hold a couple of fanciful umlauts against them. Nö Shöw begins with the two of them warming up vocally and physically as we enter the space, and their hearty and slightly ridiculous introduction involving title cards sets the ball rolling for an hour of top-notch comedy.
Xavier and Ben launch into a bit called ‘Boners Never Lie’ which perhaps isn’t as tasteless as it sounds and comes with a catchy jingle; soon Ben realises that they aren’t getting any reaction, not because it’s not funny, but because there’s no one in the audience. NB: It actually is really funny and we, the real audience, are indeed responding with plenty of laughter.
In any case, Xavier hasn’t noticed this yet and Ben decides to spare his feelings by keeping him in the dark, both literally and figuratively. They proceed with the show as normal, with Ben asking Xavier to make small adjustments such as going on with his eyes closed, while Ben runs into the audience as a stand in. Eventually the reality of the situation becomes apparent, which prompts Ben and Xavier to re-evaluate their partnership.
There are props and accents aplenty, and even a Chinese Milo Kerrigan delivered in Mandarin (‘it’s not racist if you actually learn Mandarin!’ they insist) from Russell and Michelides as they make their way through a maze of surreal, and yes, truly absurd material. There’s no point in trying to describe their sketches in detail – explaining a joke kills the funny – so just show up to The Blue Room and trust that you’re in good hands with these adept comics.