The bit where Holly cradles an imaginary cat. The bit where the shit bags start moving. The bit where Dot jogs around the venue to the chatter of dog walkers “oh look at her go. It looks like she’s enjoying herself, doesn’t it?” The bit with Rosie the tortoise, paddling in a dark sea. The list of departed pets.
Last seen crawling on their backs out of the job interview awkwardness of Would Be Nice Though in Edinburgh in 2012, Odd Comic (Holly Bodmer and Dot Howard) return with more vignettes of everyday, well, oddness. Scenes taking the language of pet owners as far as they can (“Stop it. Stop it. Stop. It. Stop it stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop. It. STOP it…..”), alternate with recorded voices of older people in care homes and hospital wards (“Yay! You have a stroke just to get out of looking after the cat…”); Odd Comic occupy a mid point between the bleak, the gentle and the physicality of the best silent cinema (witness both Dot and Holly chasing/being chased by ‘poo bags’ to the strains of “My Dog Loves Your Dog”).
After the site-specific demands of Would Be Nice Though, which took place entirely in repurposed office rooms, My Champion Heartache plays out on a stage that allows Odd Comic to play out their designs in grand style. Instead of bread roll juggling (“roll-play”), we get stuffed tiger wrestling and fish tank wrangling, instead of awkward team building songs, we get a description of the audience as pets (“oh, look at them, their feet are so little; look at their markings: look at his little beard”) that has the two children in the front row giggling in delight (the same children that had to hide behind their father when a (fake) dead cat is gradually wafted across the stage with newspapers).
The skill with which Odd Comic temper the refined slapstick with the quieter, darker moments; the cats left behind because of a death, the goldfish tied to a stone to help it swim again, the tortoise silently crawling in a pool of headlamp white, the stillness of the imaginary horse; “you get worn with losing them”, makes My Champion Heartache a snappy, genuinely funny show that isn’t afraid to point to the sadness of animals, and the loneliness of age.