Kit Sullivan is a protégé of Spencer Jones and those familiar with the Comedy Award-nominated creator of The Herbert will instantly spot stylistic similarities, not least when Sullivan picks up three dolls’ heads on sticks and starts getting them to talk to each other. Sullivan’s also his own man though, and this debut hour, directed by Jones, is less goofy, less colourful, and, it has to be said, less immediate than Jones’ work.
The set up is quite appealing – Sullivan’s rummaging around in his parents’ attic for props ahead of a gig, a gig at which his doubting parents will see if he’s any good or not. We are the “loft people”, people that Sullivan’s dad knows are up here, but doesn’t seem bothered about. There’s some back-and-forth chat with his offstage father, and a trap-door through which his mum throws items to Sullivan in a slapstick moment.
“Found” items then become the cue for mini-sketches or pieces of audience interaction. An old swear box is used to prompt us to shout our favourite swear words at him, for instance, or he spends a pleasant couple of minutes humouring an old, rubbish Transformers figure who isn’t able to transform into anything cool. Less successfully, the discovery of his mum’s beret leads to some whiffy beret/berry puns and a bit of Foo Doo Fa Fa franglais. It’s all a bit hit-and-miss depending on whether the item’s got much follow-up potential.
An extended segment about an “heirloom”, which turns out to be nothing of the sort, leads to the tragi-comic recreation of scenes from his “family history”. This strikes closest to the heart of the piece, which seems to be a meditation of sorts on what it is to be the clown in the family when they have other ideas. There’s traces of pathos throughout, which the loft treasure trove scenario helps with, but picking out the intended message from the flights of fancy is a tricky business. It seems clearer to the performer than the audience.
The extensive use of sound effects and regular interaction with the tech delivering them works well, as do a couple of audience games. There are probably too many ideas thrown in the pot, though, including a pre-amble in which he acts out collecting an Oscar with a cardboard box on his head. It feels like disconnected padding.
In the melange of all this, there’s an endearing piece of comedy wriggling its way out. It wants to be more than it is, which is no bad thing, but Sullivan still seems to be searching for the right delivery mechanism for his brand of humour.