With his back turned to the crowd, the performer drops the crowd into uncertainty the moment they walk in the room. A ragged Irishman with a voice like a clown mocking Received Pronunciation leaps from the stage and starts catching the courtesy claps of the crowd with a fishing net. His opening gag is to crawl through the legs of a row of audience members plunged into darkness and from only there does it start to get cathartic.
Hot Donkey is an hour of manic skits and bits performed by a bouncing ball of energy named Paul Currie. In one of the Fringe’s most notorious sweatboxes, it’s impressive how well this being can keep his composure through an hour of running and dancing, clambering and chanting. His shtick is hard to nail down because it’s all over the place. In the same way Andy Kaufman considered himself more of a ‘song and dance man’ than a comedian, Currie’s stand-up style has little to do with the mainstream interpretation of the form. Dropping sweeties in your lap and blasting through pop numbers like a karaoke machine on cocaine, it’s nearly 20 minutes in before he sits down to tell some material, probably because he hardly breathe after his intense crowdwork workout.
Hints at larger scale of storytelling start to take place in his recollections of growing up in Belfast, adoring the Jim Henson Company and desiring to find the way to Sesame Street. Through the haze of silliness and confetti this story comes to a satisfying conclusion, but attached is a message of inspiration and criticism of our culture as it becomes stuck in the past, rehashing the same old properties as the generation before us. Currie spends nearly every second in his hour pursuing creating original and hilarious ideas, some loveably endearing, most laughably bizarre but all adheres to a school of thought that we all need to be more creative and stop retooling myths.
The way Currie interacts with the crowd is a marvel in itself as he effortlessly manipulates them onto the stage with barely a word, just tugging on someone’s hand during a faux handshake until someone gives into him. This crowdwork is neither lazy or to set someone up, the audience are mere props treated with love and respect and it’s hard to see a face that doesn’t grin with childish glee at the antics in the room. Hot Donkey is chaotic and charming in every inch of its conception, balancing the right amount of the absurdity in a comedy hour that will tickle the heart of even the most straight laced cynics.