Theatre review: Clonely

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: There are several ­obstacles standing in the way of the Fringe success Clonely deserves.

Laughing Horse @ The ­Mockingbird (Venue 441)

****

Its venue and timing, for one thing – the mid-afternoon slot at a ­relatively unknown bar beyond the city centre never did anyone’s audience figures much good. It’s also, arguably, miscategorised in the Fringe brochure and by the performers themselves, Me Me Me ­Theatre. With its audience interaction, surreal characters, episodic narrative and emphasis on laughs, this is the sort of ­experimental sketch comedy The ­Behemoth (aka John-Luke Roberts and Nadia Kamil) excelled at.

The action takes place upon a spaceship populated ­entirely by clones of a tech entrepreneur called Don Solus. We watch two of the clones (Jasmine Chatfield and Charlie Hammond) come out of hibernation and guide their siblings (the audience) through induction, doling out nicknames in the process (Dangerous Don is to be avoided; Shy Don is nigh-impossible to find). As we become more indoctrinated in the ways of clone life, we learn about dark secrets upon the ship, including the tragic deaths of some of our antecedents (shades of Duncan Jones’s Moon) and the existence of a sinister, ­scorpion-themed cult.

Chatfield and Hammond are gifted physical comedians, conveying multitudes with a fixed grin and a flick of the eyes; the scene where they become familiar with their newly discovered bodies is an extended, dialogue-free delight. Other highlights include the most chaste-yet-raunchy sci-fi sex scene of the Fringe, and a glorious montage of death.

By any serious metric of theatre criticism, the show is a failure: the characters are (purposefully) undeveloped; the sets and props (enthusiastically) homemade and unbelievable; the small amount of pathos at the conclusion shrugged off with a smile. All of which make it a glorious success, as long as you judge it as a comedy.

Until 27 August. Today 2:45pm.