The Plothole: It’s dry, but you can laugh

Stuart Cairns and Westley Cockrell are actually quite funny, sort of.

Working in a bookstore can be detrimental to your mental health. Particularly for writers.

Surrounded by all those stories, their promising beginnings and neat endings, which are published, there, on the shelves to be seen and bought, is a constant slap in the face. A daily taunt of one’s own unpublished status.

The irony is that it is only aspiring writers who would ever subject themselves to the drudgery, low pay and superciliousness of bookstore customers, which is why bookstore staff are notoriously rude. It’s a guaranteed path to misanthropy.

Look at Dylan Moran’s character Bernard Black in Black Books. You thought the sitcom was fiction. Ha! Moran isn’t such a grumpy shit anymore of course. He’s famous now. Which only makes aspiring writers and comedians like Stuart Cairns, who still works in a bookstore, even more embittered and misanthropic. I don’t know what his sidekick Westley Cockrell’s excuse is, but this also makes Cairns a good comedian (irony alert II) and given that bookstores rarely have customers, he has time to get hold of someone like Cockrell and dream up shit like The Plothole because if one doesn’t have a book of one’s own, the next best thing is to find fault with the books that mock you from the bookshelves every day of your working life.

And while a publisher has standards, almost anyone with the ability to meet some sort of deadline, access to an employer’s wi-fi and lack-of-money as a common-law spouse, can book a stage on the Fringe.

The lack-of-money situation is also why Cairns and Cockrell’s The Plothole has cardboard cut-outs as props. Guys can’t even afford a bottle of Tassies. No, they cut a bottle shape out of an old box and write ‘cheap red’ on it. Eish! It’s a miracle they found their way to Grahamstown, these okes can’t even find their white privilege.

But they’re here. Which is a good thing, because they’re actually quite funny. In a dry, ridiculous sort of way.

Just the fact that their show is billed under comedy but is not sexist, homophobic or racist, and elicited at least one laugh from me (many more from the midday audience of teens and twenties) puts it in about the top five percent of comedy shows on the Fringe. If Cockrell didn’t corpse for some completely obscure reason, it would make the top three percent.

Bear in mind I just made those percentages up. I don’t even know how many comedy shows there are on the Fringe, having chosen that section of the programme to try keep a fire going and halt the onset of severe hypothermia.

Put it this way: if you can read and understand this review and know the difference between hypothermia and hyperthermia, your parents must have read to you as a child, in which case, you probably wander into bookstores now and again and disturb people like Cairns from plotting their future fame; you’ll understand what The Plothole is about, and probably even laugh, possibly quite often.

If not, go watch Stef the Hypnotist.

The Plothole is directed by Rob van Vuuren and is on at the National Arts Festival until Saturday 8 July. Book here.

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