Slap and Tickle Rehearsed at the Manchester Comedy Festival

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Slap and Giggle – aka Sid Wick and James Bennison – run an regular student night in Manchester, which is unusual in that they perform a new set of sketch comedy before each night’s stand-up bill. This comedy festival offering is a ‘best of’ compilation of those pieces.

They’re unusual, too, in that their performance style is very old school; with the sort of phoney vaudevillian conversations that haven’t much been seen in decades. Their heavily scripted dialogue is less Morecambe and Wise and more Cannon and Ball as they banter, bicker and wilfully get their wires crossed with not a gram of authenticity.

Though it’s all good-natured, the conceit does get frustrating as time goes on, as you crave more personality. An hour is definitely a stretch for a show that is so stylistically monotonous.

The funniest moments come when they break the pattern: there’s a silly impersonation of Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis that is hilarious in its woeful inaccuracy, while a song about Deal Or No Deal set to Teenage Dirtbag raises a genuine laugh – and you can only imagine how surprised I am to write that sentence about a musical parody.

For the limitations of the performance, there are actually a smattering of very good, inventive jokes here, including an excellent payoff to a hugely contrived Mr T routine, some Knockabout slapstick, and the odd surreal train of thought. Their more ambitious attempts are often the most rewarding.

Reeves and Mortimer are obvious influences in their more successfully zany skits, although Slap and Giggle do not impose their own personality on their material forcefully enough. And there’s also still a lot of chaff even in this ‘greatest hits’ collection – which cannot be a good sign for those who watch the fortnightly instalments, as I dread to think of what might have been thrown out.

They surely need to perform outside the comfort zone of their own gigs to develop a stronger style and a less wasteful repertoire in front of less forgiving crowds. But there’s certainly a spark of invention to their best work, which they would do well to nurture.

Review date: 22 Oct 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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