Off Big friendly and I went last night to the first show of a very short run of The Missing Links by stand-up comic Mark Sampson at the Baxter Concert Hall. We had both to gird our loins a bit; stand-up is not a favourite for either of us.
I know Mark and his wife Sam, which was just as well, since the email I had received from the Baxter offering me free tickets to which I had responded in the affirmative, and the next one with instructions about where to collect them had failed to translate into actual tickets with my name on them. Luckily Sam was at the ticket table and she scrambled to find me a pair belonging to a no-show. But honestly Baxter marketing! What’s the point of offering tickets and then not making them available. It was embarrassing for me and for Sam.
The show started 15 minutes late, which was a bit of a pain. The Missing Links is a great idea, and a well-researched concept. And to our relief, it was not strictly stand-up. The basic train of thought follows man’s journey from monkey to modern man over the last 6 million years and it is compared to the journey from Cape Town to the Sterkfontein caves outside of Jozi; if you were to travel on the N1 in a taxi. It’s a good idea. It’s also a feel-good idea, linking all men and women, the entire human race, regardless of colour, geography, hair style or body type, together. We are told (unfortunately far too many times) that we are all in fact 52nd cousins to each other.
Mark starts off really well. I (who seldom laughs out loud in stand-up) chuckled a few times. His set up is good and his outline of the journey and where we are going is clear and cute. But much of the show’s exposition is also its meat, so he never departs from the role of explainer. Which after an hour can become tiresome. Especially when there is still a whole half an hour more.
The story is better and braver than the jokes. It is a difficult task marrying lecture/dem with stand-up. Gaetan Shmidt succeeded brilliantly in The Dog’s Bollocks because he is such a good physical performer. Mark could have used a director with a crack-whip and huge shears. I am entirely convinced that if the show was condensed into an hour, and all the repetition was cut out, it would be tighter, cheekier and much funnier. The audience around me, who were generally full of appreciation, couldn’t wait to leave after an hour and a half. I say, rather keep them hanging for more.