Punt & Dennis: Ploughing On Regardless | Gig review by Steve Bennett at The Swan, High Wycombe

Punt & Dennis: Ploughing On Regardless

Gig review by Steve Bennett at The Swan, High Wycombe

There’s a section in this show in which Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt talk about the curiously specific warnings on films – ‘contains moderate threat’, that sort of thing. It’s all-too tempting to add the same sort of caveats to their tour: ‘Contains mild humour, infrequent use of unexpected punchlines and scenes of hammy acting’.

One payoff in this very section, is a perfect example. ‘Contains moderate threat,’ they say. ‘You know, like Ed Milliband!’

It’s followed by a self-disparaging quip about their ineffectual satire, but it barely works as a joke at all... Just one of plenty examples where it feels like ‘it’ll do’ has been the guiding principle as they knock out a script in between recordings of the Now Show Series 42, Outnumbered, Mock The Week and whatever else they have on their plate.

The first big chunk, for example, is a meander through the electronic programme guide, making wry asides about the reruns on ITV3, that Channel 4+1 isn’t Channel 5, or about the pitfalls of watching home-shopping networks when tipsy. Aside from the idea of structuring the material this way, the actual gags are pretty much the first thing any moderately witty person might think to say about each channel.

Still, they plough on regardless – as the tour title suggests – until they eventually fall upon some quirky material about Mighty Ships documentaries tucked away on Quest, an apparent obsession of Punt’s, which feels fresher.

This portion is symptomatic of an over-long and under-written show, peppered with sporadic wit but not nearly tight enough. Lots of establishing bumf is similar to a friend sharing a mildly amusing newspaper story they’ve just read about – for example how various nations celebrate the anniversary of the EU, or what proportion of pet owners set up Facebook pages for their animal companions. There’s an arched-eyebrow commentary to the broadly topical subject matter, but generally the chit-chat is shallow, if good natured.

Yet whenever it threatens to tip over into proper dull, the sardonic clipboard-wielding Punt is interrupted by Dennis’s admirable gift for physical comedy. His mimes of various sporting achievements is a set-piece guaranteed to get the laughs; while he acts out the comedy drunk as convincingly as WC Fields - though is surely less Method about it. Some of his arsing around goes on too long, to Punt’s feigned exasperation, but equally it can become funny again through the bloody-mindedness of the repetition.

Ploughing On Regardless is a real mixed bag through-and-through. The sketch of a lazy builder is a bit rich since it’s such lazy writing, but the depiction of how the Boris Island airport in the Thames Estuary might work is very well done, even if the premise is not entirely fresh.

It’s an affable evening, and they’re a smart duo, but this feels like a first draft of a show that needs plenty more edits and rewrites yet.

Review date: 22 Jan 2014
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Reviewed at: High Wycombe Swan

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