Created, Written and Directed by Degenerate Fox
Sketch-troupe Degenerate Fox have set themselves a significant post-Lockdown challenge, not only to transition their live show, previously performed at The Rosemary Branch, to a socially-distant online performance but to deliver 30 separate plays in 60 minutes, around half of which are being performed for the very first time. A madcap session ensues, entitled The Dirty 30 II: Electric-Pay-Per-View, as six members of Company try to beat the clock and entertain their first digital audiences.
Streamed to a private Facebook Group which participants must join with the password and link provided, the show itself takes around 90-minutes with a slightly overlong preamble as clips from past shows are played, the cast introduce themselves (Laura Killeen, Gabi Macpherson, Sergio Maggiolo, Benjamin Ridge, Graham Self, Jack Wakely), the premise is explained, and the audience is encouraged to interact. And if it wasn’t challenging enough to perform 30 plays, the order depends entirely on the number of votes cast via the chat function.
After 25-minutes, the first play begins and it is soon clear how much variety is involved in the show as dances, surrealist skits, political debates, dramatised scenes, competitive races, singalongs and games form part of the mix. The very first piece – No. 23: Don’t Touch – involves the full cast dancing with a cherry tomato on their palm which is squished onto their head. It ends with Gabi, Laura and Graham mock-recreating the bizarrely sexualised 80s advertising for Pringles in No 7: Sensual Dips, or Advertising for Dummies. Eclectic is the word.
Some of the sequences are very astute, responding to the strangeness of 2020 and its new social rules including What the Pub (probably) Feels Like These Days (No. 29), as each cast member draws their seat away from the camera with an awkward conversation about Lockdown achievements, a tipsy hug attempt by Sergio and tumbleweed rolling across the screen. No. 6: I Hope We Are Preaching to the Converted is a brief comedy moment as the masked Sergio tries to blow out a candle on his birthday muffin.
A lot of the other sketches are just plain weird. Benjamin drinks a glass of water and lets the contents dribble out of his mouth (No. 19) and later dresses as a grotesque Miley Cyrus to perform Wrecking Ball (No.15). Gabi and Jack do a spot of Yoga (No. 14), the cast talk about the cakes they have baked over the summer (No.3), Gabi summarises a true crime podcast with photos of the victim and details of the latest celebrity-backed campaign to reopen the case (No. 28), while Graham and Benjamin put Party Ring biscuits on their fingers and use them to perform a dance (No.20).
Some of the games land better, including a round of Look Out Your Window Bingo (No.22) in which the audience can play along with the first to spot five items such as a red car, a bus, a view into a neighbour’s house and a group of youths. A similar premise is used for No. 4: The During and Since Lockdown Rendition of Never Ever Have I Ever including holding hands, smoking, going to a wedding and long Zoom calls. These add a bit of gameshow variety that nods to the live environment and the purpose of the online show.
30 plays in 60 minutes is an ambitious goal and the definition of play is certainly loosely interpreted here, yet there is something about the collective experience of all these little works, the imagination of the creators, the likeability of the performers and the sheer audacity of its random persistence that somehow wins you over. The Dirty 30 II: Electric-Pay-Per-View is certainly hit and miss but with more shows to come on 23 and 24 October you might feel strangely compelled to tune in again for new plays and a new ensemble to see if they reach their target.
Reviewed on 26 September 2020