Saturday, August 20, 2005

Adam Buxton: I, Pavel

Adam Buxton used to be one half of Adam & Joe. He was the half called Adam. Come to think of it, perhaps he still is one half of Adam & Joe. I'm not sure what they actually do these days.

Buxton gave a lot of interviews promoting this show, the thrust being that the reason we haven't seen him on TV since the last season of the Adam & Joe Show is that nobody will hire him. To be fair, this seems in part to be due to an ill-advised attempt to escape type-casting by going after conventional acting roles, none of which materialised. Even so, it seems a bit odd for Adam & Joe to have drifted completely off the radar after producing a string of series which, while admittedly a bit hit and miss, were at best very good. And even at their worst, just a little obvious. Is there really no space for them in a multi-channel world where Top Buzzer managed to get commissioned?

So Buxton is changing tack - or, depending on your point of view, desperately trying to remind everyone that he exists - by doing a run at Edinburgh. Not only is this his first solo show, but it's his first live show of any sort (Adam and Joe broke into TV through their home-made animations, completely bypassing the normal routes). Not that you'd know. He seems totally confident up there.

Pavel, the angry and nihilist experimental animator from Eastern Europe, is a character who turned up in one of the later A&J episodes, brought back and extended to an hour-long solo show. With admirable commitment to realism, Buxton has grown the beard for real. Britain must be one of the few countries in the world where you could get away with doing this much material about experimental animation. It's not that he expects the audience to actually know anything about it, but it's taken for granted that we've all stumbled upon it in a graveyard slot on Channel 4.

The set-up for the show is that Pavel is here to host a retrospective of his work. In other words, he's going to show us some of Adam's latest video cut-ups, some more obviously connected to the character than others. And some, frankly, shoehorned into the show on the most tenuous of pretexts. As you'd probably expect, most of the best bits are on video. The highlights are an indescribible but inspired nihilist cut-up of Pokemon which needs to be seen - the original's diabolical animation and exaggerated reaction shots make it particularly vulnerable to this sort of abuse, but Pavel's version goes beyond the obvious jokes - and footage of the investiture of Pope Benedict, redubbed as a scene from Star Wars. The costumes are uncannily convincing. And if you're wondering what the hell that's got to do with Pavel... well, yes. But it's so good that it was worth getting into the show.

On the downside, Adam & Joe always had a weakness for material which was either slightly too puerile or, well, just plain obvious, and there's quite a bit of that here too. A lot of it's still funny, but it doesn't have the inspiration of the best parts of the show.

Still, it's not a mixture of good and bad - it's a mixture of good and okay. And the good bits are worth paying to see.