It is time for character comedian Tom Neenan to return to nature in the appropriately named Buttercup venue in the Underbelly’s Med Quad as he takes on the persona of the revered Sir David Attenborough to tell of “the lost adventure,” an expedition to Canada in search of a mysterious creature rumoured to exist in that vast wooded wilderness: the Sasquatch.
Emerging through the crowd packed into the darkened hut and narrating his passage to the stage through the “group of bipeds staring mono-directionally in hopes of understanding a Fringe show,” Neenan understands both his chosen specialist subject and his audience who in their sedentary state he regards as “pleasant yet unpredictable.”
In his white corduroy safari suit of oversized pockets it is an affectionate spoof in equal parts performance and bad puns as the difference between a meerkat and a mere cat is explained, gentle satire and sass, as exhibited by the “sass-quatch” and its “come see me, boys” attitude before it waltzes back into the undergrowth.
Having delved into the mists of the BBC archives previously with The Andromeda Paradox, his spoof largely inspired by Quatermass and the Pit, Neenan here offers up snippets of less well remembered shows such as Conversations with the Clergy and Yarn: A Warning from History while exploring the story behind the expedition.
Those who only know Attenborough from the prestige shows which have followed from 1979’s Life on Earth may not be aware that in 1975 he did indeed host a single season of Fabulous Animals featuring creatures of mythology and broadcast in the late afternoons as young children returned home from school, and here Neenan presents a map of the cryptids of North America worthy of The X-Files.
With other characters including a hunter who blocks Attenborough’s peaceful zoo quest who would not be out of place with the obsessives of the documentary Shooting Bigfoot and the orphaned marmot Shutterstock whose scene-stealing recalls the alien similarly rescued by Professor Bernard Andromeda, Neenan ad-libbing flawlessly through few technical difficulties while also luring the unsuspecting into his prepared verbal traps, and like his titular inspiration he has again created a work demanding attention and praise.