Under a pile of leaves, next to a scrawny tree covered in fairy lights, the Story Beast lies. Jumping up he declares that the world will end in fifty-five minutes and, whether we like it or not, this will be the last show we will ever see. What follows is a series of sketches, songs and stories that will amaze, amuse, and astound the audience.
The Story Beast, portrayed by John Henry Falle, performs two shows at the Fringe – one for children, and this late-night show that is definitely only suitable for grown-ups. However, there are sketches that would fit in both shows, especially the very repetitive song ‘Jam’ (which is sure to get stuck in your head). The disparate segments of the show cover a variety of different genres and styles, and are all funny.
The Shakespearian saga of ‘Gruber’ – a re-telling of Die Hard in iambic pentameter – is fantastically well-written and performed. Falle’s oratorical style is, in many ways, reminiscent of Brian Blessed, and the way his voice booms each line is hysterical. Another segment is an especially gruesome tale about Stephanie the Steam Engine (in no way a parody of the licensed Thomas the Tank Engine), and it appears perfectly logical if you think of the oddity of having a human face on a train. It also has the best line of the entire show where a head is squashed ‘like a grape made of steak’.
At one point a game of Pass the Parcel is instigated and it is funny just how badly an adult audience plays this, much to the genuine bewilderment of Falle. The cultural references used also mean the show will make much more sense to people of a certain generation; this is especially notable in a Blue Peter parody sketch involving a model of Tracy Island.
But while many of the segments are funny and clever, the framing doesn’t bring them all together. The idea that it’s the end of the world – and we only have fifty-five minutes to live – is not referenced in most of the segments. I was also put off by Falle's downing a can of lager on the stage during the performance, which came across as quite laddish and didn’t fit with any of the content of the show.
Story Beast: This is Bardcore is chock-full of great sketches that are let down by a poor over-arching story. However, there is much fun to be had here, even if at times it gets a little disturbing.