Robert Florence is Biscuity Boyle: My Bastart Life
- Jay Richardson
- 30 October 2018
This Burnistoun character falls (almost literally) between two stools
Like his Burnistoun cohort Iain Connell, Robert Florence appears to have been emboldened by the pair's live transfer of their sketch show, and their subsequent, looser stage production, Uncles, into dipping his toe into solo performance. But whereas Connell opted for autobiographical stand-up, Florence has plumped for fleshing out an existing character, 'Burnistoun's favourite son … Biscuity Boyle'.
A pathetic, one-note embarrassment in the television sketches, Boyle has considerably more back-story here. Hesitantly taking the stage with his flies undone, singing a world-weary rendition of That's Life, his speech is characteristically defeatist, his motivation for sharing his life story initially unclear. The TV skits tend to end with the aged Boyle's humiliation in front of young women, trousers around his ankles. But Florence shrewdly keeps the slapstick to an absolute minimum, save for one finely-judged instance.
More problematic is that to justify Boyle holding court, his mythology has been beefed up: not only was he an Olympian hurdler but he subsequently cut about with Grace Jones at Studio 54. This might have satisfied if Florence had woven a more logical journey of rise and fall. But Boyle's life in Burnistoun feels disconnected from his time in New York, with the whole enterprise somewhat sketchy as the character is, by turns, a pitiable loser, while elsewhere he's a success and the voice of plain-speaking reason.
Born at the end of World War II, Boyle also seems too clued up with popular culture, (the likes of Netflix and Count Dankula for example), the suspicion being that he's a comfort zone from which Florence can try topical, observational humour. And there are certainly some fine gags here, with the character, for all that he's downtrodden, not fully exhausted yet it seems. But torn between the familiar and the unexplored, Florence has hedged his bets and produced a so-so compromise between the two types of comedy.
Robert Florence is Biscuity Boyle: My Bastart Life is on tour until Sunday 4 November. Seen at Paisley Arts Centre.