IDEAS MEN
The Pit, London EC2
Opened 1 October, 2003
***

Ridiculusmus the comic performance duo consisting of David Woods (the bald, gangling one who looks like he's stepped out of The Hills Have Eyes) and Jon Hough (the compact, poker-faced one who looks like one of Woods' victims) have long relished taking ideas that were already daft and torquing them into unexpected, hyper-ludicrous configurations. In a delicious synergy, in 1997 The Exhibitionists, their show about art gallery guards staving off boredom while on duty, was staged amid a Yoko Ono exhibition; a couple of years ago a planned retrospective season was kiboshed when Hough's lung collapsed, so in a couple of days they put together a show about collapsed lungs to fill the slot, with Woods onstage and a diamorphine-zonked Hough video'd in his hospital bed. Their reputation has steadily grown to the point where their latest piece, Ideas Men, can occupy a four-week run in the BITE strand at The Pit.

Their shows are always worth a look, but it has to be said that this isn't one of their most brilliant. It seems to start from a similar point to The Exhibitionists: a couple of creative consultants faffing around in various ways to try and come up with the next big notion and/or pass the time until it comes along. There's a touch of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross in there, too, with a competition where the winner gets a big money prize and the loser gets the sack, and the theft (several times over) of the winning idea. Also present are Hough and Woods' fondness for planned mistakes (apparent line fluffs that are really scripted, and so on) and for playing around with metatheatricality and an ambiguity of focus, so that we often can't tell how many layers of fiction are being presented at once.

But the numerous giggles and clevernesses don't coalesce into a big laugh or a great insight. Maybe that's the point of the show: that it enacts what it portrays; that, as the clock on the back wall shows, this is nothing more than a way of filling in an hour by knocking around ideas that don't ultimately go anywhere. But that isn't Ridiculusmus's usual style of cheek. I think they intend something more than amiably bonkers diversion, and I think it isn't quite there.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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