Young buck pretenders to the mantle of established greatness, Barratt and Fielding return as Vince Noir and Howard Moon in their sequel to Perrier award winning, Mighty Boosh. Daring to tred through a frozen wasteland in little blue sandals, the surrealist twosome may not take any sense but boy are they funny.
Experiencing the queue for Arctic Boosh is an education. Largely made up of studenty types who are able to quote from last year’s show as a deranged scientist/barman in the still current Metz advert ("It sort of monkeys around with the body’s periodontal atrium") their presence indicates that Barratt and Fielding are nothing less than a cultish phenomenon about to blast headlong into the mainstream.
To explain their appeal is tricky since they offer few points of reference to what has gone before: they make sense, they don’t tell jokes, they don’t make run-of-the-mill observations, and to cap it all, they’re far too damn good-looking to be comedians (even if one of them does have the hair of a Sixties girl and the other prances round the stage in the kind of swimmers your dad wore in the Seventies).
A bit of an acquired taste, granted, but there is definitely more in their hour on stage than the deranged product of the oddball twosome’s dreamlike logic.
Arctic Boosh features Barratt and Fielding as their gimpish alter egos, Howard Moon and Vince Noir.
They are a pair of bored postal workers who, in their quest for new routes with more challenges than an irate sausage dog ("is it a sausage, is it a dog?") embark on a tale of mystical eggs, lascivious yetis, cryogenics, fudge and evil stationery.
When Moon is not franking mail and licking stamps, he fantasises about discovering arcane fluorescent eggs at the North Pole while Noir, a postman whose ability to read is strangely not employed in the delivery ofletters, dreams of soft confectionery, warmer climesand the tedious tales of his Uncle Boris, Arctic postman ofyesteryear.
What follow are a bunch of improbable happenings, bad songs and carelessly thrown together costumes delivered with a charm and humour that is deeply unusual but hugely funny. What more can I say, except catch them now before they get too big for their little blue sandals and intimate Fringe venues.
... the boys of The Mighty Boosh, causing a stir up here in Edinburgh with their latest show, Arctic Boosh. Last year, Julian and Noel won the Perrier Best Newcomer Award for their magical flights of surrealist whimsy, and can boast that it's the first time a stalker has helped a double act succeed to such a degree... 'Noel used to stalk me,' says Julian. 'We first met when he kept turning up at my gigs like an ominous white face at the back of the room. And when I was finished, he'd be gone. I'd get backstage and ask 'who was that mysterious stranger?''. 'I was like a comedy nosferatu,' says Noel. 'And then we met, and I used to follow him around giving him gifts of small monkeys I'd carved out of Ryvita...' '... To win me over to his way of thinking. Now he's sucked all the knowledge out of my bones. I'm eroded now.' Their new show is at the Pleasance. If you get the chance... go see.
It's not often that your stalker helps you win a Perrier award, but anything can happen in the world of comedy. Of course it helps if your stalker is just about as weird as you are, and if he has a damn f ine comedy routine at his disposal, but even then a Best Newcomer title isn't guaranteed.
"I first saw Julian's act at my college bar" explains Noel Fielding, one half of the Mighty Boosh, as he runs through the events that led to their collaboration at last year's Fringe. "It was the first time I' d seen a stand-up act where I thought 'this is the kind of comedy I could do'. I'd fancied myself as a stand-up for sometime but I was unsure whether my kind of material would work. It was seeing Julian that gave me the confidence to go for it. After that I always made an effort to catch his act."
"Yeah, he used to come up to me after shows," continues Julian Barrett, Boosh member number two, "and say 'My act's like yours'. And I used to think 'Yeah, right'."
"I became his stalker!"
"Then one night he came up to me before a show and I talked him into doing an open mic spot before I went on, you know, so I could see what he'd been talking about all this time. He got the spot and went on and did this great act - immed iately preceding mine. I thought, 'shit, how am I going to follow that'."
"I'd never headlined at that point, so I didn't know how irritating it is when the support act goes down so well!" Noel continues, "Sometime after that Julian called to ask if I wanted to help him write a TV script he'd been asked to produce. Of course I jumped at the chance and things kinda went from there."
"We never quite got round to making the TV show', Julian admits, "but from there we developed the live show, the Mighty Boosh, which of course went down so well in Edinburgh last year. And now we're back with more."
Noel and Julian are far from your standard double act. "We didn't want to be known as Barratt & Fielding," Noel explains, "we'd just sound like a company of solicitors. So we stumbled across the Mighty Boosh. It' s much more flexible and it's amusing watching people having to say the word 'boooosh'."
"Yeah, we just got the name from a word a friend used to describe a certain sort of hair cut - a mighty boosh. But we liked it. It makes us sound more like a band - a happening group rather than a dreary double act."
"Last year's show went so well that we've decided to come back to Edinburgh again this year with the Arctic Boosh," Noel continues.
"Yeah, the Star Wars sequel has the icy world of Hoff, we've got the icy world of the Arctic Boosh". "The new show sees the same characters entering a different world. Putting it together has been a bit like that second album - it's been hard. Then again we learnt a lot when we were doing the first show, so in some ways things have been easier. "
And is Edinburgh the ideal place to debut the sequel? "I guess so," Julian muses. "I don't know - a lot of Edinburgh is about being seen, tarting yourself around the big players. But I guess Edinburgh's good for new shows. It' s certainly provides a deadline. We've got a very loose way of working, and if we didn't have the Fringe to force us to get on with a new show we'd probably never get round to it."
"Yeah, and just doing the same show in the same space for three and half weeks is great for developing a new show."
So the moral - if you're a comedian and you find yourself being stalked this August ... big things may beckon.
Chris Cooke, July 99
Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, Venue 33, p.13, until Mon 30, 18:00
Two gyrating freaks with fox masks wearing garish pacamacs and a man made entirely out of envelopes give this surreal audio-visual feast 'must-see' status. Postal workers Howard Moon and Vince Noir are persuaded by the evil Mr. Jiffy to take on the infamous Arctic postal route, ending up frostbitten, eating pube soup to survive and having desperate affairs with a randy Yeti. It's even da fter than it sounds, and the pair deliver with such loveable abandon that after an hour you'll want to take them home. [mg]
The Hits and Misses
The undoubted hit so far prompts the most laughs and melts the most barriers. Is Arctic Boosh a sketch show, a show or just a free-wheeling peep inside the minds of performers Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt? We meet the duo as they pass the time as postmen, vying for delivery routes in Spain and the frozen wastes. Fielding, once accurately described as a "squashed Elvis", is stooge to Barratt's brilliant flights of fancy, which recall Vic Reeves at his most surreal. Barratt is briefly upstaged by a talking Jiffy bag, but emerges triumphant. Unless some fiendish small print makes them ineligible, everyone else might as well go home. The Perrier Award should be theirs for the taking.
Although technically comedy, Arctic Boosh could equally be filed under surrealism, fantasy, theatre, horror, social commentary or simply genius. The latest product from the warped imaginations of 1998 Perrier best newcomers Julian Barrett and Noel Fielding is an absurdist fantasy launched from the unlikely springboard of the Royal Mail.
Crushed by their existence, two postmen take refuge in fantasy postal routes in both Spain and an Arctic wasteland. This curious-enough proposition becomes the trigger for a dizzying array of adventures taking in crazy costumes, flying wigs, time travel, preposterous props, bizarre characters (from haunted Jiffy bags to promiscuous Yetis), and some of the most inventive comedy writing of the decade.
Few comedians possess such electrifying magnetism. The bug-eyed Fielding could easily be a rock star, while Barrett has something of the Harry Corbett, world-weary existentialist about him. Caper that this is, underlying Arctic Boosh are several socio-philosophical notions that recognise the catalytic relationship between fantasy and the mundane.
There are also fundamental insights into the British working condition, but most importantly, enough moments of sublime, mind-boggling hilarity to make Arctic Boosh an unmissable and hugely original masterpiece.
Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding in Arctic Boosh | Pleasance The climactic horror of Mr Jiffy! The eight feet of Sellotaped envelopes stalking Howard (alias Julian Barratt) in a small post office by the sea! Agh! The bubblewrap horror!
Rag-tag and recklessly-imaginative, The Mighty Boosh return after scooping last year's Perrier Best Newcomer award with their thinly-plotted lunacy. And, despite the loss of Rich Fulcher, Barratt and Noel Fielding deliver with zesty, enthusiastic fun.
Dozy postie Vince (Fielding) wins instant audience sympathy with his deliveries of a dropout (no pun intended) and big, lady-friendly eyes, whereas, on the face of it, Barratt seems to work incredibly hard: expression-filled, energetic, every bit the sardonic straight man who orders the lazy upstart and, more importantly, underdog around.
The silly story about waiting for new postal routes is just a bonus. Blonde goes to Spain where we meet the mythical Uncle Pedro and his minty eyes while dark goes to the Arctic, where he searches for a mysterious egg and falls for a frisky bigfoot. It's just a Goodies-type channel for the genuine chemistry and infectious camaraderie which should spur them to more success.
"Then there's Arctic Boosh (Pleasance). It's hard to know what to say about this show. It's clearly insane. It's also quite brilliant. To say that ostensibly it's a warped mini-play about two postmen who try to find an unusual egg in the Arctic is like trying to describe A Brief History of Time as a book about maths. Just go and see it. You'll regret it if you don't."
Arctic Boosh, The Pleasance, August 4-30
JULIAN Barratt - the guy who says "It's technically known as a judder" in that Metz ad - and Noel Fielding are back in Edinburgh after scooping last year's Perrier Best Newcomer award with their surrealist show The Mighty Boosh. The two characters from that show - Vince Noir (Fielding) and Howard Moon (Barratt) - also return as postmen delivering letters in the frozen wastes, seeking a magical egg and falling in love with the Yeti. This weird, wonderful, fabulous fantasy is more Salvador Dali than Bernard Manning.
Pick of the week
Julian Barratt & Noel Fielding This surreal duo, who act like complete idiots and still manage to be cool, won the Best Newcomers Perrier Award last year. In their new show, Arctic Boosh, they're sporting little blue sandals to brave the Arctic. Directed by Stewart Lee. Pleasance (0131 556 6550), until Aug 30.
JULIAN BARRATT and Noel Fielding, winners of the Perrier best newcomers' award at Edinburgh last year, are a fantastically odd couple of lads. Hip and handsome, yet also intensely cranky and shamelessly silly, they're a double act who have pushed beyond the surreal sketch-show format towards a kind of liberatedly illogical dream-play.
In their new one-hour show Arctic Boosh, our duo are living what appear to be pitifully dull lives. Staring into space in their matching blue-collar shirts, they are seemingly just two small-time postmen kicking their heels in a backwater sorting office. Brown paper parcels and boxes of stationery are stacked in one corner, and Barratt's character, Vince Noir, who likes to play boss, sets Fielding's dippy little tasks, such as finding out where their new delivery routes will take them.
But the mundaneness is superficial. Fielding (who trained as an artist) starts wandering around the office in a tribal mask fashioned from a lampshade frame and a snaking rubber shower hose - nose and eyes represented by its nozzle and staring tap attachments. Meanwhile Barratt (who's a musician as well as a comic) sporadically yells mad stuff - "Get me some wheat!" - and launches into sessions of ludicrously uncool jazz-rap poetry. "They call me the lizard. I lick stamps," he proclaims, narrowing his eyes at the ladies in the front row, but always looking hopelessly doubtful about his prowess.
Then there's Mr Jiffy, the big white envelope with the hectoring, torn-away mouth, who rears up in Noir's paranoid nightmares and apparently rules the world. As for those reshuffled delivery routes, Moon gets impossibly lucky, posted to sunny Spain where, ambling round in a huge sombrero, he waves to wildly cheering invisible crowds. Noir, meanwhile, finds himself staggering miserably around the North Pole, with only a violently oversexed, hairy, pink yeti for company - until Moon comes to the rescue.
Barratt and Fielding are charmingly crazy, with a great mutually teasing dynamic and an ear for hilariously quirky phrases. Their childlike ability to pursue fantasies with unrestrained playfulness is really extraordinary. They are comedy's answer to improvised jazz.
That said, their wry, scrappy aesthetic can seem lazy; Stewart Lee's directing could be tighter, and if you saw last year's show The Mighty Boosh, wherein Barratt and Fielding played lowly zoo-keepers who headed off into the jungle, you might well feel that Arctic Boosh takes them down the same route, with just a change of scenery.