Doug Anthony All Stars: Near Death Experience
- Murray Robertson
- 22 August 2017
Beyond edgy interplay with a musical comedy trio who give as good as they get
The Doug Anthony All Stars have been doing their provocative musical comedy since the mid-80s and, on the basis of tonight's audience, they've fostered a very loyal fanbase indeed. Newcomer Paul Livingston meekly takes the stage for a low-key, pun-heavy warm-up before long-established members Tim Ferguson and Paul McDermott arrive to complete the trio. Ferguson has multiple sclerosis and performs from a wheelchair, with most of the group's humour directed at him and his failing health (he spends much of the show making plenty fun of himself too). It's a resolutely un-PC set with lead man McDermott mercilessly ribbing his friend, alternating between faux-patronage, fury at his 'limitations', and joking about what he predicts will be his imminent demise.
The audience responds to the most edgy humour with what sounds like a mixture of shock and hilarity. The meaner McDermott is, the bigger the laughs he gets, and although he constantly belittles both partners (Livingston is also bullied for looking a little old beyond his years), it's reassuring that it's his own ridiculous behaviour that's the focus of the biggest laughs.
The All Stars intersperse a talk-heavy set with a number of comedy songs but their best material lies in the triangular interplay. As their musical accompanist, Livingston is literally sidelined while the focus is very much on the other two. They occasionally pull off solo routines, the highlights being a parody on WH Auden's 'Stop All the Clocks' and a vast monologue presented by a character with sibilance, struggling to pronounce his soft consonants.
McDermott dances a very fine line between humour and cruelty but it's clear that he and Ferguson have a very strong bond forged from three decades of performing together, and both comedians struggle to keep straight faces throughout. A surprisingly touching finale provokes a standing ovation before the Dougs exit the stage with a typically daft flourish.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 27 Aug (not 22), £15 (£14).