The moment the audience walks in, they are welcomed and given name tags by ‘Leslie and Jackie’. Except they aren’t meant to be an ‘audience’. They’re a ‘focus group’ gathered on behalf of ‘Lola and Jo’ who are testing material to take to Edinburgh next year. While this ‘meta’ concept may sound questionable, in practise it’s actually quite ingenious and I found myself thinking why hasn’t anybody thought of this before?
Double act Joanna Griffin and Lola Stephenson pull of this ‘routine-within-a-routine’ ‘with aplomb, commenting on the nature of the gags and anecdotes while interacting with audience. The immersive interaction really adds to the show and while there is a bit of gentle teasing with those spoken, it’s never really at their expense as the humour lies in the fictitious names and backstories that have beeen allotted to them.
Potentially, the ‘focus group’ idea can be adapted to any number of specific locations and situations, allowing for more nuanced performances and a greater percentage of spontaneity each time. Still, with material to hand such as with the funeral directors and the extravagent hen-do, there’s guaranteed comedy gold on the night.
© Michael Davis 2017
Focus On: Lola & Jo ran at The Bill Murray, London on 19th September.