Keith Smith’s comic cuts

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WHEN it comes to zany surrealism, there’s a fine line between genius and disaster. When it works, it’s brilliant, when it doesn’t, well, you end up with a show like this one from Lou Sanders (Pleasance Courtyard, 9.30pm, until August 26, *). Centred on a mysterious spiritual concept called Wallan, it tries far too hard to be off-beat, descending into an incoherent, inconsistent mess of videos, mad characters and interactive vignettes. A grand entrance involving a step ladder is enjoyable, but a man sitting in a paddling pool reading a book contributes nothing before leaving midway through. The time-out zone on stage where she can talk to the punters unfettered by the restraints of the shoe is a decent idea, although after two early uses it’s then ignored, while some of the audience participation has an undercurrent of cruel superiority to it. As a result, much of the (limited) laughter is of the nervous variety, with many present afraid that by not joining in, the joke’s somehow on them.

In comparison, James Dowdeswell (Pleasance Courtyard, 10.45pm, until August 26, **) is a genial enough chap, although his material can be lightweight at times, with many of his best jokes already having had an airing here last year. A lame attempt at character comedy pads out the set, as do a couple of unfunny parody songs, including a rap number which falls flat. True, a small Sunday crowd, subdued by the wet weather, don’t help the atmosphere, but he’s got much more to offer than this.

Taking umbrage at being described as “inspirational” by a fan, Laurence Clark (Underbelly Bristo Square, 5.20pm, until August 27, ***) sets about turning the idea of what constitutes an inspiring act on its head in this gleefully entertaining hour. He’s got a knack for skewering public perceptions of disability, punctuating the set with a series of hidden camera stunts that become increasingly amusing and absurd. Provocative in a good-natured way, it’s a satisfyingly well-developed comedy narrative, complete with neat twist.