Having adored his previous two shows, which won a staggering collection of international awards, I can spot immediately that we are on recognisable Simmons turf with new show Radical Women of Latin American Art, 1960-1985.
There’s the discomfortingly strange outfit, complete with fake baby. There’s the use of pre-recorded voice-over and the persistent commentary on the audience’s level of appreciation.
Kicking off with a story set in Los Angeles, where he now lives, Simmons walks us through a strange series of events that occurred while he was waiting for his wife to finish looking at the art exhibition Radical Women of Latin American Art, 1960-1985.
But as the show rolls it feels as if Simmons has edged away from the avalanche of absurdity that characterised his previous work and closer to traditional stand-up – although the term “traditional stand-up” doesn’t feel right, either. While he’s using fewer props, looped recordings and bizarre costumes, this routine definitely still has the feel of being on a rollercoaster of weirdness: the hallmark of Simmons’ work.
The entire show is punctuated with a series of hilarious impressions, peppering the performance with some sublimely odd and random moments. Of course, the whole idea is flipped, with the title of the impression frequently being the most comical element.
In between impressions, Simmons turns his attention to an edgy scatter-shot of topics. As he recounts interactions he’s had on subjects like racism and parenting, the anecdotes are delivered with his individual brand of caustic petulance, followed by another signature move: berating the audience for their lack of appreciation. It’s a clever tactic, which works because by highlighting his (sham) failure, he’s emphasising the daftness and absurdity of an act already red-lining in both categories.
After a rousing rendition of a song, sung to the music of “Nessun Dorma”, detailing the items that can lodge and fester in a baby’s neck, Simmons brings things to a close by setting up a sting-in-the-tail scene, cleverly revealing the show to be a far tighter and well-crafted production than it appeared.
Following up his previous five-star brilliance in shows such as Not a People Person and A-K was always going to be a big ask. While I found this show not quite at peak Simmons brilliance, if you want to see a unique performance of sublimely absurd humour that defies easy classification, then Radical Women of Latin American Art, 1960-1985 is the show for you.
Sam Simmons is appearing at the Corona, Garden of Unearthly Delights, until March 18. Read more InDaily Fringe reviews and stories here.
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