Viggo Venn is endearing: he's unique, provoking in his audience an almost child-like sense of curiosity and wonder. We're all asking what he will produce next, in this surreal world of salad attire and playful punchlines. And in The Life Of Pepito, his debut solo show, he duly delivers a steady stream of surprising and sometimes hysterical ideas.
The Pepito of the title is Venn's comic creation, and there's a beauty in the apparent simplicity of his clowning. Yet, as half of the award-winning double act Zach & Viggo, the calibre of his experience shines through – especially in his playfully teasing interactions with the crowd. He charms us with cucumbers, and cajoles with sound loops.
The show comprises long- and short-form sketches, exercises and skits, involving gently-coaxed audience members. That structure gives him the flexibility to linger on a successful light-sabre exchange, but to move on at speed when another element runs dry; there's always another rocket ship or friend around the corner. And one of the most downright funny sections of the show is when Venn simply bolts through punchlines in between blackouts, providing a lovely change to the tempo and rhythm of the show.
Relying on the audience for clowning exposes a vulnerable belly, but also allows Venn to exercise his honed performance muscles. In this environment of playfulness and blurred realities, you want to tickle that belly, such is the work he puts into creating a flexible and fond connection with his audience.
Venn is aware of and utilises that likability – but he doesn't rest on the laurels of it. There's something altogether satisfying about seeing his scarecrow-smart form working so hard for our laughter. There are times, such as a particularly tricky endeavour to answer a telephone, when his activities drift from merely funny to hypnotically engaging. And the same was true when it came to engaging a shy audience member; the puzzle of working out what it was he needed from her, and his contortionist-like efforts in using any morsel provided, sat more than comfortably in his absurdist oeuvre.
My cheeks were aching from laughter within five minutes of this delightful clown taking to the stage, and repeatedly returned to that state throughout the hour. The Life Of Pepito is charming, and Viggo Venn has clearly worked very hard to make it look so naturally easy. You sense that it's consistently reliable but, due to its audience elements, repeatedly different with each performance. And it's all the more a treat for that juxtaposition.