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2011 Brighton Fringe: Gentlemen Of Leisure - The Death Of The Novel

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

What a delight to see a sketch show with both personality and meticulous attention to jokes. In The Death Of The Novel, The Gentlemen Of Leisure deliver a taut, polished script with a distinctive tongue-in-cheek attitude that sets them apart from most other educated middle-class practitioners of the genre, of which there is never any shortage.

The fashionably geekish Nish Kumar and Tom Neenan are masters of awkward self-awareness, bringing an appealing knowingness to their spoof examination of the literary form. They are both literate and comedy-literate, playfully batting around ideas, but prepared to sacrifice their obvious sharpness on the altar of silliness.

With false gravitas, they present their thoughts as a series of chapters – or sketches as they’re more rightly known. Each is expertly packaged, and they even achieve that rare feat of using PowerPoint to add atmosphere and class to the show, rather than subtract from it with pointless graphics.

The banter between the pair is well-judged, skilfully employing the usual adult-child dynamic of the double act. Neenan is the show-off, enthusiastic if ignorant, Kumar the nominal grown-up, but still something of an idiot himself. The comedy comes largely from their earnest, supposedly authoritative presentation of facts about which they have done very little research. How apt in this Twitter-and-tabloid era of instant opinion over studied knowledge.

Occasionally an idea might seem familiar – such as the effusive but useless Theatre In Education improvisers What the Dickens! – but it’s always executed with aplomb, while more inventive routines, such as the reconstruction of a famous moment in literary history with only the most cursory of background reading or the over-simplistic comparison of the button-down Fifties with the free-love Sixties, are a joy.

There are occasional moments when the energy wanes a little, but comparatively few in a show that reinforces the ‘old GoL’ as a comic force not to be ignored.

Review date: 28 May 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Otherplace at Bar Broadway

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