“This isn’t some kind of weird unconventional thing,” said Ms Hypnotique, otherwise known as the female half of comedy-music duo Eccentronic. At the moment she spoke the words, fellow performer John Callaghan was pulling out a home-made wind-up music box; a few moments earlier, they’d made a toasted sandwich live on stage. But the thing is, antics like those are fairly conventional – at least in the context of this gloriously crackpot show.
I think it must be rather fun to inhabit Eccentronic’s minds. Despite the resolutely low-brow tone of most of their act, there’s a real creative intelligence underpinning their wacky ideas, exemplified by the moment when I suddenly realised they were referencing Kafka. Even better, there’s a gloriously liberating sense that they really are just doing whatever popped into their heads at the time – which more often than not leads to a genius juxtaposition, like their re-invention of Je T’Aime, Moi Non Plus using Google Translate and a theremin.
The wafer-thin premise for this year’s show is that Eccentronic are in prison. Why are they in prison? It’s not completely clear. If it were down to me, I’d cut the vague back-story about copyright violations, and just concentrate on crimes against musicality. They commit quite a few of those.
The pair specialise in sample-heavy “mash-ups”, which add their own lyrics to fragments of popular songs from the 80’s and 90’s. So there’s a middle-class rap set to the theme tune of The Good Life, while Pulp’s Common People is re-invented as a tale of social angst at Aldi. I dissolved into helpless laughter at the opening bars of each of these, and rarely stopped giggling till the final notes were played. And there’s also one serious number – discussing (among other topics) gay rights in Russia – which neatly shows that musical mashing can deliver some thoughtful messages, too.
On the debit side, while the songs are well-rehearsed, the links between them could be a lot smoother. It’s a reviewer’s cliché to say that a show feels perpetually on the verge of falling apart, but with Eccentronic there’s no “on the verge” about it; their show does fall apart, regularly and routinely, before hastily gathering itself into a semblance of its intended shape and stumbling onwards into the next song. It’s more endearing than annoying – rather like watching Bambi fall and get up again – but I’d have to suggest that a bit more discipline would lead to a far better show.
And while Callaghan’s wilful over-acting is extremely funny, a little of it goes a long way. Still, part of Eccentronic’s charm is that they throw themselves into their performance – sometimes literally – and aren’t afraid to get in amongst their audience to drive their punchlines home. All in all, Techno Prisoners deserves its day in court; it’s a show like no other, and the most thoroughly enjoyable utter shambles you’re likely to experience this Fringe.