It’s hard to properly get a handle on Christopher Bliss, the nerdy, budding author from Shropshire created by character comic Rob Carter. Firstly, on this evidence, there’s not enough to him, no hinterland a la Partridge or Shuttleworth. Secondly, he seems too in on the joke, as aware of the naffness of his rubbish writing as the audience. And thirdly, and most importantly this evening, he’s reduced himself to a framing device for a different show entirely.
I Spy With My Little Eye… is a play about a jilted husband that Bliss has written to star in alongside his two friends. It’s not quite the entirety of the hour – there’s an erotic short story reading first, possibly to establish the character, possibly (if we’re being cynical) to pad things out. In the play, Bliss is a post office manager whose best friend’s been killed. A cool stranger then arrives in town to take the friend’s business and Bliss’s wife.
The hammy, script-in-hand acting and directoral flaws are where the humour lies here. Bliss hasn’t thought it through and characters have to “go to the toilet” so that the actors can come back as someone else who’s supposed to be in the scene. As a comically bad play, it could stand alone, ropey and funny like Acorn Antiques. The extra layer of this being a comically bad play by Bliss, a character not fully established, doesn’t add much.
Bliss breaks the fourth wall to get the audience to shout a Partridge-esque “ruddy hell!” at tense moments. He also adds a touch of improv, asking the audience to create a catchphrase for his dead mate and take part in the village’s “Worst Villager” competition. It’s a fun way to get people involved, but where it fits with Bliss’s literary pretensions isn’t clear. Is this Bliss actually inviting us to be part of his magnum opus or is it Carter thinking “I better get some crowdwork in here somewhere”?
While this audience are happy to coast along with it, one can’t help thinking that either deluded writer character or rubbish play should have been order of the day here. Combining the two means neither get the proper attention to detail.