Good Kids is a total blast. We arrived in the room to upbeat music, having been greeted at the door by the effervescent Good Kids themselves and hugged by one half of said duo. I had a sense that this would be an experience – fun was hanging in the air, waiting to be had.
The show begins with Tom Dowling and Kieran Ahern bouncing on stage, with a boundless energy that doesn't let up for the next sixty minutes plus. Hailing from Birmingham, these lads bring us a variety of sketches, characters and songs, based on and around their formative years growing up in the city. There were a few Midlands-based references that may carry extra appeal for locals, but this show works well regardless of where you're from.
Dowling and Ahern are both part of the Oxford Revue, but Good Kids is not the kind of show I'd necessarily expect to emerge from that background. On the surface, it appears to be light-hearted random daftness – yet drill down a little, and it's clear that this is a well-crafted piece with some truly top class acting. As well as playing themselves, we meet several of the boys' glorious, well-rounded Brummie character creations. As audience members, we are also part of the action, with the actors speaking to individuals – and us as a collective – as if we are characters in the stories and sketches.
Indeed, audience interaction is integral here, and the experience is somewhat immersive. Ahern often banters with and high-fives us, and both men spend a good deal of time bounding up and down the aisle using the full length of the space. The randomness of the narrative works really well, as do the interjections of various songs – especially given that these guys are not only good actors, but good singers too.
This was very nearly a five-star effort. But there were at least a couple of sketches and a song which went on for too long, losing some momentum and leaving the impression that they'd been milked dry. In fact, the show overran considerably, so cutting down the slightly rambling sections would definitely be of benefit.
But the two performers complement each other and work together well. Toward the end, both introduced some of their personal insecurities and vulnerabilities (real or feigned) to the storyline, adding another dimension to the performance. I'll be looking out for any of their future work and truly hope they return to the Fringe next year. Until then, Good Kids will remain a memorable show for me – and one I would highly recommend if you want some boisterous merriment.