Having returned from a successful stint at the Edinburgh Fringe, Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen now bring their energetic concoction of absurd, unpredictable and down-right silly comedy to The Arts Theatre in Soho. Rather than follow any obvious notion of plot, the show instead spends most of its time jumping rapidly between a set of seemingly unrelated characters in different times and places, which all surprisingly manage to come together in the end. Everyone is played by the pyjama-clad duo, contorting their bodies marvellously and hilariously to create different props and personalities.
We have to wonder, however, what the show really gains from the ultimate excavation of a plot out of the bizarre mix of scenarios which precede it. The Pajama Men want to make you laugh, and their comedic strength is in their ability to imagine bizarre characters and jokes and then realise them through each subtle or ridiculous wink, accent and movement. Everything takes place in the present; a line is heard, laughed at and then forgotten as we make room for the next joke. We’re not concerned where this fast-paced comic mix is heading, and perhaps because of this, the final scenes where all the characters come together and mime terror and distress, all taking place to the tune of an out of place acoustic guitar number by the otherwise fantastic Kevin Hume, prove to be the least exciting and the most forgettable.
The characters and storylets themselves, however, are imaginatively and absurdly crafted, and it is these unique creations which elevate the show above the dead-pan one-liners and ridiculous mime which form the basis of the show’s verbal and physical comedy. The King has spent his immortality procrastinating and killing time at restaurants, while Nadine has spent hers being eternally pissed off about her missing arm. Franz’s life story shows us that even navigating the most impossible of laser grids is frustratingly “too easy” for him.
Despite jumping rapidly back and forth between these characters, with no introduction and little more to signify the change than a different backdrop and a new accent, The Pajama Men give each of them a persona and comic value of their own. The jokes themselves are rapid and plentiful, but few are as memorable as the characters, and most lack any particularly inspired vision. The tone is set right from the start with a series of ironically bad one-liners, and the rest of the show rarely hits any funny notes more impressive than this, sometimes even meandering off into repeating the same lines over and over until the laughter dies out. The Pajama Men’s delivery is perfect, their timing impeccable, but their skill with words perhaps not as much so. Some of the funniest gags involve their bodies alone, Nadine’s prosthetic arm which just won’t stay in its socket being particularly hilarious.
The Pajama Men is good entertainment; it hits the right spot most of the time and keeps the laughs flowing. Chavez and Allen are confident, talented and well-matched as a comic duo. But it’s also formless by its very nature and without any real purpose. Those looking for comedy which takes pleasure in being harmlessly silly will come away warm and satisfied, others should probably look elsewhere for their laughs.