Foil Arms and Hog are old hands at sketch comedy on the big stage now – as well as garnering over 100 million views on YouTube, they’ve been selling out the biggest Fringe venues for years on end – and it shows. From the moment Swines kicks off, it’s apparent that the Irish trio are supremely comfortable in the limelight, whether that involves rummaging through the contents of an audience member’s bag or ridiculing their own failed attempts at improvisation. With accomplished stage presence and inimitable inter-chemistry, they’re a slick and razor-sharp production.
Sean Finegan (Foil) is quite literally the foil to his two wilder and less predictable chums, playing the straight man to their zany characters and idiosyncratic identities. Rubber-faced and elastic-limbed Conor McKenna (Arms) is a master of physical comedy, as is the wiry-haired and wide-eyed Sean Flanagan (Hog), whose on-off rivalry with McKenna is the source of much of their material’s hilarity. The opening sketches about the world weightlifting championships (mime edition) and a ditty on the travails of Brexit are particularly effective, showcasing the boys’ ability to combine sharp writing with slapstick physicality and off-the-cuff witticisms for an outstanding end product.
As is pretty much inevitable with shows of this kind, some of their ideas are more well-rounded and hit their target better than others. An imagining of Beethoven’s erstwhile sidekick is side-splitting stuff, while the use of a thespian as a military weapon and the recurring motif of a stag do gone wrong are slightly less accomplished. But even among this weaker material, there are moments of true genius and the trio are clearly so adept at what they do (and so clearly enjoy doing it), that any momentary dips in quality are immediately brushed off and mined for laughs themselves.
Anyone who has been to a Foil Arms and Hog gig before will be well aware of their penchant for audience involvement. Playfully impudent, this element just about stays on the right side of cajolery without cruelty, but it’s still advisable to arrive on time and without unnecessary accoutrements in tow. Otherwise, you might just find yourself being served up as the side rashers for this impeccable porcine performance.