Doctor Brown: Befrdfgth (4 stars)

This article is from 2012

Doctor Brown: Befrdfgth

Free spirit gets the audience playing along

The evocatively entitled Befrdfgth doesn’t open with a fanfare, a burst of music or even a lighting cue. Instead, the curtain at the back of the stage twitches, almost imperceptibly, and a nose is glimpsed in the ensuing gap. The curtain balloons, getting bigger and bigger until it’s moving shapelessly among us in the audience. A hand emerges, snatches up a woman’s bag, and the curtain shrinks once more to the back of the stage.

When Doctor Brown eventually appears from beneath that inflatable black mass, resplendent in kaftan, headscarf and fulsome beard, he stares at us with all the wonder of a child seeing snow for the first time. After trying out a few moves, a spot of weightlifting, boxing and a half-hearted bullfight, he ups the ante, delivering an eye-wateringly authentic mimed blow-job and pulling the entrails out of the bull’s stomach.

It’s the level of detail that makes the good doc’s manoeuvres so compelling, not to mention his fearlessness in interacting with the audience and his ability to get us playing along. Whether shining a beaming spectator’s bald head or enticing another to spank him hard on the bottom, there’s a wonderful pervading sense of collusion in something silly and naughty but life-affirming at the same time.

The pièce de résistance is a routine on an imaginary motorbike with the audience coerced into creating the sounds of a bell, a horn and a gong, the sound and actions increasing until our hero is dancing a frenzied tarantella in the middle of the stage.

It’s a brilliant show, a slow build that goes out on a high and, while probably carefully crafted, gives the impression of being completely weightless, off the cuff and entirely free from the burdens of everyday life.

Underbelly, Cowgate, 0844 545 8252, until 26 Aug (not 13, 20), 9.05pm, £10.50--£11.50 (£9.50--£10.50).

Doctor Brown - Befrdfgth

  • 4 stars

Soho Theatre and the Mason Sisters @ PBJ. Rapidly becoming an international comedy sensation, 2011 Total Theatre Award nominee Doctor Brown returns with a brand new hour of absurd visual humour. 'His combination of clowning, oddity and low-level menace constitute one of the funniest shows on the fringe' ★★★★ (Guardian).