Gary Le Strange - Face Academy ***
WINNER of the prestigious Perrier Best Newcomer award at last year’s Fringe, Gary Le Strange, The Byronic Lord of Pop, has unleashed Phase Two of his plan to rid the world of mediocrity.
At times engaging, at others brilliant, yet never dull, the world’s foremost Neo-Regency Face Warrior received a mixed response to a character comedy spoofing early-1980s pop music.
His new show, Face Academy, is about some weird, androgynous musician in his early 30s. Sick of seeing all the fame and fortune go to talentless idiots, he has decided to stage a one-man war on mediocrity. Until he gets bored, that is - and instead, performs a batch of songs from his new album.
Smothered in eyeliner, Le Strange enters the spotlight in black PVC trousers and an Adam Ant-esque admiral’s jacket, declaring the start of the Face War.
"We are warriors," he proclaims. "But fashions, not bombs, are our weapons."
In between songs, Le Strange puzzles over why he doesn’t have a record deal when Will Young does. "Is it just because he’s nice, has a great voice and millions of people voted for him on TV?"
And he speaks out in support of an array of worthy causes, including the war on terror, global warming and an ageing population "who are going to starve to death because we don’t have any pensions".
You’ll either love him or loathe him and, clearly, the punters here did both. Some never stopped howling with laughter at his Cockney-accented warblings and happily bobbed along to his tunes.
Others saw one of the entertainer’s costume changes as the ideal opportunity to take to their heels.
Although the irony of it all was clearly lost on some members of the audience, the real beauty here is the way Le Strange’s songs were only slightly more absurd than the originals they spoofed. They took their inspiration from the work of several performers synonymous with 80s synth-pop, including Gary Numan, Adam Ant and The Human League.
Numbers such as We Are The Warriors and Electric Dance, which he reckons is "a bit like the Hokey Cokey but set in war-torn Europe", would easily work on their own. But his preposterous prancing and posing around the stage is spot on, too. And it helped that his last song - an electro-stomping number about a world where dandies and Cyborgs walk together hand in hand - was arguably his best.
Even without the songs, the kooky comic proved he’s an excellent stand-up whose talent is still maturing.
Let’s hope the music industry does the right thing for once and gives him the record deal he deserves.
Run ends August 29