The barely realised comic play, for ever suspended between the fictional world and the fun its creators have performing it, has a proud lineage in comedy. That’s the territory staked out by two-time Edinburgh comedy award nominees the Delightful Sausage.
Ostensibly, Nowt But Sea tells the tale of Chris Cantrill and Amy Gledhill – thinly disguised as their stage alter egos – summoned to a private island by reclusive celebrity agent Cedric L’Shay. Does mainstream success finally beckon for these two “mucky northern oiks” – or does L’Shay have other plans in store for them? That’s a matter of considerably less importance here than the jokes, the backchat, the smut and the slacker meta-theatrics (“gosh, what a lot of acting!”) that the Delightful Sausage invite us to enjoy along the way.
The risk is that the theatricality could look half-arsed, the fiction uncommitted. But it’s averted here because Cantrill and Gledhill do commit when it counts – as does guest star Paul Dunphy, who turns in a ridiculously creepy performance, all big teeth and hand sanitiser, as the lascivious L’Shay.
The duo’s joyful and teasing rapport, meanwhile, will steamroller any remaining objections. Watching them make one another laugh (or in Cantrill’s case, make himself laugh) is a show in itself, as they poke fun at one another’s foibles and physiques and mock their own theatrical pretension.
There are so many such detours and daft asides (see the shaggy dog story prompted by Cantrill mistaking his oars for chopsticks), it’s a wonder Nowt But Sea ever reaches its destination. But soon, our heroes are ensnared in L’Shay’s lair. Amy is the more willing house guest; a slave to her libido, she’s much aroused by her host’s digital cinema habits. (Cue smutty puns on the word “streaming”.) It falls to Chris to effect a rescue, using only lube, a pair of golden underpants and his obsession with Victoria Coren Mitchell. By the final reel, the pair’s dreams of big-league success are in tatters. Is it any consolation to say that, with shows this infectiously funny and cheerfully unrefined, their cult status in fringe comedy seems assured?
At Soho theatre, London, until 26 November.