“Strength in Numbers”
PowerCouple Free Sisters 9.45pm till 25th August
Critics aren’t supposed to criticise Fringe venues. One of the beautiful things about the Fringe is the way in which so many shows can be supported simultaneously. At times, of course, this means cramming into spaces that are less than ideal: store cupboards; conference suites and – in this case – a staff room.
In spite of the embargo on discussing Fringe venues, it’s hard to ignore their quirks when our comedians insist on dwelling on them. It may be warm inside The Staff Room at Free Sisters, but Stephen Bailey and Gary John Senior are armed with a fan. Every so often, one of them raises it to head level and aims a blast of cool air at the perspiring audience.
In such an intimate space, a show about the two sides to a gay relationship has the potential to be uncomfortable. What if it’s not funny? What if there’s too much information on sexual predilections? And more to the point, how does the format even work: does each man take turns at saying lines into the mic?
Gradually, our fears are allayed. The humour? It happens. The sexual stuff? It happens too, but without inducing gasps of ‘Ewww!’ The format also unfolds naturally: for the first half hour, Stephen Bailey discusses their relationship. Then it’s Gary John Senior’s turn to dish the dirt.
Stephen is ginger and very camp. Gary is tanned and masculine. One may be chalk to the other’s cheese but together they form a power couple. The pair’s real life relationship appears to be strong – much like their real life comedy. It’s gentle humour rather than tear-streaking laughs (‘That was my only joke in the set,’ acknowledges Gary), but the duo are easy to listen to and easy to like.
For all its overt gayness, PowerCouple is packed with observations that every couple can relate to. Should Stephen Bailey and Gary John Senior ever break up, here’s hoping they agree to share joint custody of the show. A stand-up routine delivered by two loved-up guys is enjoyable; the same format dispensed by two disgruntled exes would be delicious.