These guys, Max Olesker and Ivan Gonzalez, just go from strength to strength. I’ve seen a lot of their stuff over the years (which by my count is about 6 now) and they never ever disappoint. Their latest Edinburgh Fringe show ‘Max and Ivan are Con Artists’ had a great reception in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the Fringe this year but I did get to see ‘Con Artists’ at the Leicester Square theatre (a usual haunt for Max and Ivan) as an Edinburgh preview with some of the Blackshaw crowd and it was so fantastic that we thought we’d go to see it at the Soho Theatre when they came back to London. It’s worth mentioning at this point that Blackshaw’s very own New Writing Night manager, Lizzie Cooper, was responsible for the smooth running of the show in her position of stage manager. The crew don’t often get a mention so I’d like to take the opportunity to say, good job, Lizzie!
It was a full house at the Soho Theatre on the night we attended ‘Con Artists’ but I get the feeling that full house is starting to be the norm for Max and Ivan and if you go to see them perform, you’ll quickly see why. The show, directed by Jessica Ransom, is a hilarious heist movie parody. Cockney ex-con Jim is getting his band back together for one final con. His band of merry men (and women) include a mad architect who (literally) cleans his teeth using a pint of beer and then drinks the remains (ergh!), Graham, a super-camp cat burglar who works in HR and Lavinia, a posh bird who also happens to be a hacker of such inimitable talent that she has ‘completed the internet on it’s hardest setting’.
Fast-paced jokes coming from Max and Ivan’s equal skills for verbal and physical comedy kept us roaring with laughter from start to finish. The two comedians played a vast array of characters of both sexes and from a wide variety of nationalities, many of whom would be on the stage at the same time and talking all at once. A particularly fantastic phone call between all 7 of the main characters left me gasping for breath in amazement (and amusement) as they both switched characters as swiftly as every other word. Some of my other favourite moments included a fantastic scene where Ivan (as Graham) manoeuvres his way gymnastically around a series of lasers (provided by Max and a couple of laser pens), a fantastic audience-participation improv section that relies entirely on the audience member coming up with information to keep the scene moving, and Max rolling along the floor to give the illusion that Ivan’s roller-skating Russian Oligarch really IS roller skating, yep that’s right everyone, that’s some REAL theatre for you. The simplicity of their set and props gave way for the complexity of their humour, characters and storyline to come through. They often come out of character to bicker like an old married couple and that’s always as hilarious (and rehearsed) as the rest of the tightly put together show. Hurrah for Max and Ivan and their super dooper show, I can’t wait for next year’s Edinburgh offering.