Bringing his Edinburgh Fringe show, The Carpark, to the screen, comedian Huge Davies re-imagines his critically-lauded comedy for a new audience and a new space.
Filmed at the Bedford Theatre, Davies emerges on stage, carrying a full-size Yamaha keyboard. Davies explains that what we are about to see is not the original show. The Carpark, as shown in Edinburgh (scoring him a nomination for Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards), was an outdoor event, held in an actual car park. The audience got Soleros as a nice bonding moment. This reconfiguration has required Davies to see the show in a different light. He has had to reinvent himself as a storyteller.
The story is not a straight line – Davies meanders his way through offshoots and ideas. Music sets the mood, and Davies discusses songs that intrigue him. Busted’s Year 3000 does not come out of it well. In a shifting, uneasy soundscape, Davies’ dark – at times pitch-black – humour takes us on a journey.
The game of subversion is always on – even in his Twitter bio, Davies lists himself as a “fun comedian keeping it light”. Taking on the model of the contemporary comedy show where the comedian reveals personal, often fractious, information about themselves, Davies promises to tell us his “sad Asian story”. What we get is a comedic sleight of hand: Davies slips in details, but they contradict each other. His birthplace changes several times during the show, a comment on how we apply homogeneity across Asian cultures.
Davies’ stage persona is brittle, aloof and careworn, and it is devastatingly funny. He eyes the audience numbers ruefully. It’s an acutely-observed bit of comedy as Davies recognises that someone else’s disappointment is always funnier than our own. Paired with a deadpan expression, Davies doubts he has the charisma to put on a full show by himself. The self-referential tone to Davies’ craft is not new to audiences, but his skilful construction of the show keeps us unaware of just how much time is passing, and how little we have learnt about him. The diversions – Daft Punk and dream sequences – give the impression that this is free-form comedy, but nothing could be further from the truth. Davies’ handling of narrative structure is superb, and not a minute is wasted.
Davies’ sense of timing is, as you might expect from a musician, perfect. What particularly jumps out is his use of silence – the awkward pause; the moments he appears to be grasping for his next sentence. A lesser talent would need to fill those moments; Davies is confident enough to let them go unresolved.
While there is always mileage in confessional comedy, the evasive tone of Davies’ show feels more modern. As we’re living in a time where authenticity and accountability don’t seem to count for much, Davies’ idea of reinvention – happening right before our eyes – delivers on what it promises, and as you begin to realise that, the show becomes a more thrilling, and satisfying, prospect.
Available to stream here from 20 June 2023