The thing about the performance style Ken Campbell calls "doing it crappily" is that it doesn't work if you actually do it crappily; the crappiness must be only superficial. The Hollow Men know this, by and large, but sometimes lose sight of it and more often aren't quite up to it.
The fictitious Lounge Club is inhabited by a sad and incompetent comic host, an anally fixated American owner, a succession of dismal acts and a venue manager who is a scoutmaster, with all the most hackneyed implications thereof. The house band is Slovakian, which a brace of immigration officers totally fail to notice. Much of the humour veers into sick and unsettling territory, but the quartet of performers lack the polish to pull off such League of Gentlemen-style disquietude.
Sometimes they simply can't carry an idea through to complete fruition; a mediaeval liturgical chant version of All Saints' "Never Ever" simply stops halfway through when they run out of ideas (in contrast to a rather wonderful interpetative dance to "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia), and if you claim that a number is from a new West End musical, then it shouldn't sound like an old music-hall ditty. Calling themselves The Hollow Men invites cruel comment, but in the words of Geoffrey Willans' classic schoolboy character, "molesworth by a grate act of heroism choked back the quip which rose to his lips."
Written for the Financial Times Web site, ft.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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