Last year at the comedy festival I was privileged enough to be sitting front and centre at The Writers, a little three-hander performed by Ben Franklin, Stephen Curry and Steven Stagg. It was a Waiting for Godot meets Monty Python Flying Circus type play about a writer struggling with the inevitable writer’s block. The show was a delight and indeed the highlight of my 2013 festival viewing.
Following this nostalgic sentiment, I was understandably curious about the second instalment and my expectations were high. As a result, last Saturday night I excitedly took a couple of comrades to the show’s follow up, The Writers: The Difficult Second Episode, guaranteeing them uncontrollable laughs. As I’m not one for reading anything media/press related before I attend a show, I wasn’t aware that the original cast (with the exception of Bob Franklin) were not part of this trio. I must say I was disappointed. I also got intermittent dirty looks from my friends due to not being able to follow through on my promise of Stephen Curry in the flesh.
In Curry and Stagg’s place, the audience got Steven Gates (Tripod) and Roz Hammond (Mad as Hell) who admittedly, were skilled and engaging as actors in their own right. My comrades enjoyed Gates’ performance although it is my opinion that once again (with the exception of Stephen Curry the year prior) Ben Franklin stole the lion’s share of laughs. He is an enormously versatile performer and I revel in his ability to play high status as well as unapologetically low status characters with equal flare.
In terms of story, I did feel that this year was slightly more facile and relied even more on music cues and physical comedy. These worked, don’t get me wrong, but they assisted a story that was not quite as strong as it’s precursor. The narrative structure was a little muddled and while I really connected with the characters in the first instalment, this year I was lost and ultimately (it pains me to say) only mildly entertained.
I’m going to give them three stars though just because Ben Franklin seriously cracks me up. He also resembles a cheerful Walter White and that tickled my Breaking Bad fan radar. I’m relieved that this year they chose to equip him with a microphone headset though as I’d remembered having difficulty hearing him in The Writers.
In summary, it was a respectable show and I enjoy the point of difference it provides in a stand-up heavy festival. Having said this, I was disappointed on the whole and only found myself cracking up over Franklin’s animated performance rather than the show’s various one liners and story trajectory.
I am indeed one for a sequel I mean, who didn’t love Home Alone 2:Lost in New York, but I think perhaps the writer story itself has been exhausted here. With this said, a different set of circumstances and similar characters would definitely entice me along for another ride. I vow to scour next year’s festival guide in the hope that they all return for another crack at what was really excellent the first time around.