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WitTank 2011

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Donnchadh O Conaill

WitTank could not be accused of being the edgiest comedy act at the Fringe, nor the most original or challenging. This is unashamedly mainstream comedy, with massive crowd-pleasing energy, exuberantly over-the-top performances, and outright silliness lurking around every corner. It’s also consistently excellent and thoroughly enjoyable.

This is WitTank’s sixth straight year at the Fringe. Sometimes they have featured other members, but the core of Naz Osmanoglu, Kieran Boyd and Mark Cooper-Jones has been ever-present. The experience shows in the trio’s lock-tight ensemble performances: the interaction is sharp, the chemistry explosive.

To take one example, the scene where a married couple buy a creepy garden gnome is wonderfully balanced between Osmanoglu’s gross lechery, Boyd’s prim propriety and Cooper-Jones’s stern impotence. It is true that Osmanoglu tends to dominate the scenes he is in, partly through casting and partly through sheer force of personality, but the other two form an indispensible rhythm section behind him, and contribute their own moments of outsized comedy when competing to impress a girl who is dragged up on stage.

A feature of the show is the number of character pieces. Perhaps the best realised was the Great Maximo, a standard enough comedy magician made far more enjoyable by the naked relish with which Osmanoglu essays each swish of his cape, and the neat twist at the end of the sketch. Kieran Boyd’s Australian instructor is less successful, partly because the character consists of little more than some good lines. Other sketches feature multiple characters but are basically vehicles for one of the performers, usually Osmanoglu. A thieving bishop lets Osmanoglu play to the gallery before making off with various items; a headmaster stalks his subordinates, bending their activities to his culinary obsession.

Another WitTank speciality is the slow-motion sequence, used to excellent effect in a sketch about a fly’s point of view, and in a brilliantly debauched scene in which a character called Mr Ears interrupts a blind date. Cooper-Jones is central to both of these sketches: his flailing limbs and broad features seem to be particularly funny when slowed down. Boyd is the least flamboyant actor of the trio and the most often used as a straight man. He is particularly adept at portraying sweet characters in awkward situations, roles which the nature of the show means he is frequently called upon to perform.

No matter how good the performers, comedy can’t be this funny without strong writing. The sketches aren’t always perfect, but the nuts and bolts of laying out and wrapping up scenes is consistently strong, and the writing is expertly tailored to the strengths of the three performers. The sketches tend to work as vehicles for comic acting rather than as outstanding ideas or concepts, ideal for a group with such a propulsive performance style.

It’s true that WitTank prefer the blunderbuss to the rapier, but who needs rapiers when you’ve got so many blunderbusses in your arsenal?

Review date: 29 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Donnchadh O Conaill

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