With so many excellent established acts at the Fringe, debut performers with no access to an omnipotent PR team have to have something eye-catching to pull in the crowd. The duo behind sketch show Two Faced Bitchin’ have the considerable asset of the impossibly tall Ricky Hunt, resplendent in full 80s power dress and Tom of Finland ‘tache handing out flyers in a manner both flirtatious and vaguely threatening. Even if some of the packed room have been slightly coerced into attendance, no-one is disappointed.
Hunt and colleague Abbie Murphy favour lengthy sketches linked to a narrative involving the hosts of a feminist shopping channel, and the pair’s decline into recrimination and, well, bitchin’. The scenarios are surreal in the best possible way, just about making sense as a series of inter-connected vignettes but giving a dizzying sensation of being involved in something way out of your comfort zone. The audience interaction is hands-on, particularly from Hunt. It’s to Murphy’s credit that he doesn’t run off with the show entirely; the actress and comedian way too consummate a performer to let that happen.
It’s hard to put your finger on just what makes Two Faced Bitchin’ work quite as well as it does. Part of it must be down to the chemistry and trust that Hunt and Murphy have together. “Best friends for far too long,” they claim in the press release, and this is apparent. They’re enjoying themselves as much as the audience, and the audience are loving it. Part of it is the sheer unpredictability. There is little signposting where each sketch is going to go. Even the meandering sketch about the tweedy posh English couple that peters out after dissolving into Hunt and Murphy yelling various foodstuffs at the crowd hits that nebulous funny bone.
There are a few images from the show that are now seared indelibly into the mind. One is poor Murphy’s mouth clamped open with a rubber dental dam, her eyes flitting around the room fearfully as Hunt in a summer dress instructs a game member of the crowd to dance round her like a maypole. The other is the sight of the imposing Hunt in full drag performing a very competent Irish jig as part of a nightmare sequence. Both are weird, strangely disturbing, and funny as hell.
Just when it threatens to topple over into complete insanity, they flip the script again and finish on a good old song-and-dance number. It’s perhaps the one standard ingredient in the whole hour. You leave unsure what you’ve just watched, just that it was very good indeed. Two Faced Bitchin’ takes old-fashioned British camp, retro 80’s nostalgia and a slightly demonic creepiness and brews a wholly original concoction.