Eric’s Tales of the Sea

Posted on April 30, 2011

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Although it’s certainly not a laugh-a-minute mirth fest, Eric’s Tales of the Sea is an enjoyable and poignantly amusing hour; but it’s possibly better suited to the Fringe Festival than the Comedy Festival.

Separated at birth?

More sweet and heart-warming than hilarious, Eric’s Tales of the Sea is, as the subhead makes explicit, a submariner’s yarn. What’s a submariner? The same as a normal mariner, only not as good. Boom tish.

Eric – no, no surname – is a bit of a fan of such wordplay, but he delivers it so subtly that at times it can be a bit ‘laugh and you’ll miss it’. Not that there was too much laughing from Monday’s small crowd. You’d think that’d be a bit of a downfall for a comedy show, wouldn’t you? And yet, six stars; what gives?

Eric, mostly. Maybe it’s just the nostalgia of my childhood crush on Bill Oddie, with whom Eric shares certain shaggy features and sensibilities, but this amiable raconteur’s recollections of his days aboard a Royal Navy nuclear submarine are riveting enough to a crowd of landlubbers that he can cruise on them somewhat.

But it’s the fact that his anecdotes amount to a Bromance Under The Sea that really sets the show apart. Eric’s best buddy Dick* – whom he refers to several times as his soul mate without the slightest hint of ‘no homo’-style posturing – plays a central role in Eric’s Tales of the Sea, from the day he saved Eric’s life during their submarine escape training until the day Eric kills him. With beer.

Don’t worry, it’s not a spoiler.

The jokes, such as they are, often have to be set up for the non-submariner audience and Eric freely admits that the set-ups are necessary but not funny. And the laughs, when they come, are gentle and of little threat to your sides. He carries it on the strength of his stories, broad and occasionally predictable as they are, and his slightly harried telling of them.

There is the nagging sense that some of these tales are just too crazy to be true in a way that makes you think they’ve been plotted out by a sitcom writer precisely for their punch line. But that weighs about equal with the ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ ‘you couldn’t write this stuff’ school of thought and when Eric jumps the shark he couldn’t be more literal. Also, he backs up most of his stories with photos (which does lead to a vague ‘slideshow night of his life’ feel but you wouldn’t wish for your life to be even half as interesting as this).

It’s cute and twee and Eric plays the part in his seaman’s wellies and Aran sweater, and we all got a badge at the end of the show (an after-school craft workshop type, not an ‘I survived’ scout-style patch!). It just added to the charming oddity (no pun intended) of the whole affair and – if the snatches of conversation between other audience members overheard on the way out are anything to go by – to the success of the show. It would probably sit more comfortably in the Fringe Festival line-up, however.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the only submarine movie Eric recommends is Das Boot.

*names possibly changed to protect the guilty!

First published by The Enthusiast.

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Posted in: Comedy, Live reviews