Little Howard’s Big Show for Kids
Underbelly, Bristo Square
Howard Read, stand-up comic and animator who very cleverly combines both skills, has come full circle in a way.
His 6-year-old cartoon namesake, Little Howard, was originally, several Fringes ago, part of a show with quite a bit of adult content. Then the show became more family friendly and the character—in fact both characters of Big Howard, Read himself, and Little Howard—was picked up for the CBBC series Little Howard's Big Question. Now he has split off his adult content into a new show, Hide and Speak, while Little Howard's Big Show For Kids is very definitely suitable for all the family.
The premise of the Big Show is that Big Howard has been diagnosed as "clinically unfunny", but their agent, Roger the Pigeon, tells them that a government inspector has come to see the show and if BH isn't funny they could both go to prison for a hundred years.
Also featured in the show are Little Howard's Carnival of the Insects—which isn't really a carnival and results in a sticky end for most of the participants—and the Royal Monkey Philharmonic Orchestra. LH also wants to squeeze in his recreation of Michael Jackson's Thriller, but will he get BH to agree to it before the end?
The animation is wonderful and funny as always and the technical wizardry is remarkable. Read has perfected a technique of controlling an animated character in real-time using a games controller, which means he can actually improvise as a stand-up as the characters and they will respond appropriately.
There are some great moments of audience participation too, as children from the audience are invited up on stage to interact with the characters on screen, which is both clever and entertaining. There is also a clever bit with a photo that I won't give away, but if you're picked out as being ugly you may feature in the show more than you expect...
The show itself doesn't flow quite as smoothly as previous shows. Structurally it seems to be made up of a lot of individual parts and the transitions between them can be a bit clunky.
However there are some great scenes and jokes, the characters and the animation are lively and great fun and there are laughs throughout for all ages. If the animation doesn't get you, then there's some good, old-fashioned slapstick later that is guaranteed to get laughs.
Reviewer: David Chadderton