Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Twisted renegades The Death Hilarious are a macabre, late-night delight. This darkly impressive debut is packed with countless elements rich, strange and deviantly chilling.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
Aggressively forward from the first, a pair of hellfire-evoking, American Deep South demonologists, a preacher and possessed somnambulist, assert themselves into the audience’s faces as they seek the devil to drive from an unfortunate soul.
A demented, full-throttle nightmare of an opening, the pair suddenly snap out of it and into the room. Introducing themselves as a Welsh double-act, there’s still something rather off about them: Darren J Coles, the seemingly volatile, expressive cross-dresser, alongside the more buttoned-up Glenn Wade in his tight, prim suit, his outward respectability harbouring a grim secret.
Combining death, depraved desire, the trappings of B-movie science-fiction and the poetic, rural wistfulness of their homeland, the follow-up skit, featuring Coles as a home-made sex robot is arguably the most definitive of their style, crudely graphic, cartoonish horror that’s riotously funny.
Elsewhere, they present a man masochistically living as a dog to reclaim his masculinity; a couple of manly New York stevedores delivering an “ass baby”, inspiring a bizarre, Broadway-style number; militant nostalgics arriving at heated arguments over misremembered pasts and a motivational speaker balancing his scheme to profit from laughter with ill-disguised family issues.
Recurring scenes with the Elephant Man in unlikely contemporary situations don’t escalate into anything as promising as they might. But the duo’s ideas are consistently out there, their performances intuitively in step with one another, while the script glistens with sadistic eloquence.
The Death Hilarious’s appeal is more obvious than the vague early description they offer of their act suggests. Seemingly set for greater things, they successfully stoke anticipation for whatever they do next.
Until 27 August. Today 10:45pm.