Sam Simmons: Death of a Sails-Man
High-functioning surreality from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe mainstay
This article is from 2014.
Amidst a stage strewn with Lego, cardboard sharks and coconuts (Death of a Sails-Man is set in the ocean), Sam Simmons stands be-wetsuited and repeatedly thrusting his pelvis. He introduces himself as Phil, a muesli salesman who was lost at sea while windsurfing with the hour chronicling his mental deterioration in the face of dehydration and isolation. Giving the impression of loosely controlled anarchy, Simmons jumps in and out of character to perform, narrate and critique his progress.
The narrative, such as it is, involves horses, masturbation, the inexplicable inclusion of Vin Diesel and all manner of aquatic oddities. Among the props, songs, hip hop and gyrating, the majority of this show is delivered as a rapid-fire conversation between Phil’s inner voices, assisted by a staggering number of cued recordings (kudos to the sound team).
Simmons presents his set as if it’s a botch job of buffoonery, close to going off the rails at any second, and it’s easy to be fooled by the apparently haphazard silliness. However, a look under the surface reveals the complex apparatus at work. Calling to mind the anarchic energies of Tony Law and Simon Munnery, this is high-functioning surreality, its seeming spontaneity masking a finely wrought comedic sensibility. The oddball and offbeat can be difficult to nail.
When Simon Amstell accused arch-surrealist Noel Fielding of merely juxtaposing weird words on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, he tried to mimic him with the phrase ‘a pair of scissors made out of glitter’. Fielding’s superior response of a ‘motorbike made of jealousy’ revealed the subtle difference between attempting absurdism and delivering it.
With a bit of the Boosh about him, Simmons proves his surrealist radar is fully attuned. Under the pretence of messing about on the high seas, he orchestrates calculated waves of raucous laughter.
Underbelly, Bristo Square, 0844 545 8252, until 24 Aug (not 11, 18), 8.50pm, £11 – £13 (£10--£12).