Troika talent showcase

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Increasingly, London agents have taken to hosting their own showcases – presenting their clients to industry types without any of that palaver of dealing with a real comedy club audience.

Surely this is missing an essential part of the art of being a comedian; but perhaps this is how TV finds its talent now; though you can certainly see the advantage for the agency for getting all their acts on one bill, even if it’s a manufactured environment

So last night, movers and shakers,  including Chortle, were invited to see some of the not-yet-famous acts on the roster of Troika, the company whose big-name signings include David Walliams, Graham Norton and Miranda Hart

Savvy Jeff Leach reminds the industry audience of his CV pretty quickly, with his BBC Three show Confessions Of A Sex Addict accurately summing up his wayward lifestyle until he found a more settled life a year ago. As compere, he has the enthusiasm and the cheeky impish smile to enliven what could have been a cold crowd.

He makes much of his camp, Russell-Brand-influenced manner. All is in the delivery as he tells of a run-in with a more aggressive bloke at they gym – but even his mischievous glint can’t disguise the fact that pointing out that the X Factor is all about the sob stories, not the singing, is stating the bleedin obvious, several years too late.

On a similar theme, piano-playing Rachel Parris mocked the histrionics and cheesily inspirational lyrics of much of the show’s output, as well as parodying High School Musical style son-and-dance numbers. She’s not pushing the envelope very far, and technical competence alone is not enough to stand out. Even her underdeveloped persona of being a bit of wreck is shared with Vikki Stone and Loretta Maine, the most emotionally messed-up of them all.

A different style next with Cambridge Footlighter Jonny Lennard in the guise of a children’s author, reading from his latest work. The approach that puts a lot of distance between himself and the audience, the book forming the virtual fourth wall – but what he is missing in performance, he makes up for in writing, with a script that fizzes with interesting ideas, novel turns of phrase, and unexpected phrasing. But it is most definitely a script, and he makes little effort to connect with the audience, suggesting a bright future - but probably from behind a keyboard.

Comedy actress Anna Morris is a decent character performer, although you might be hard-pressed to pick her out from a line-up of similar acts. The nervous stand-up first-timer is nicely done – especially when compared to others mocking the chuckle-factory comedy courses – and the domineering bride has some snappy lines, although her attempts at participation were met with reluctance from this audience. They seem like convincing, genuine creations, which shows her acting talent, even if that’s not always an asset in comedy, when it’s the grotesques that stick in the mind.

Sketch trip Clever Peter have a similar identity problem, being perfectly competent – amusing even – but forged from the same mould that so many middle-class male sketch groups have come. They are solid actors, happy to make a token effort at cross-dressing for their two-dimensional female characters and offer skits with slick production values and recurring, versatile catchphrases.

But they are at their best when they subvert their image and try something looser and sillier, as the hilariously messy Cake Fairy sketch conclusive proves. Nonetheless, they got the strongest, most consistent laughs of the night; so maybe there’s something to be said for following a proven formula.

Next up, the first real stand-up of the night – MC Leach excepted – requiring Ava Vidal to negotiate a gear change into her more conversational style. Even thought the set makes points about racism, the tone is tongue-in-cheek and the delivery relaxed. Possibly too relaxed in places, as some jokes could be tightened on a technical level, but she delivers effective laughs from a perspective not often heard.

Adam Hess closed the show, making the transition from barking out the funny, autistic one-liners which won him last year’s Chortle Student Comedy Award to a more calmer, anecdote-based approach which is more easy to listen to over a 20-minute set. The change in styles isn’t always smooth, but his story of a shambolic trip heaps on the humiliation, even if it needs some finessing, while the shorter jokes are often inspired in their warped viewpoint.

Review date: 20 Nov 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Hen and Chickens

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