Come In! Sit Down! | Review of Muju Crew sketch show by Steve Bennett

Come In! Sit Down!

Review of Muju Crew sketch show by Steve Bennett

The Muju Crew is a ten-year-old project between Jewish and Muslim performers working together 'through a shared passion for creating art. As the opening number of their sketch show trumpets: 'More unites us that divides us!'

But good intentions do not always make great comedy, and however mean-spirited it seems to criticise the upbeat output of such a worthy venture, comically Come In! Sit Down! misses at least as often as it hits.

Stereotypes abound, as you might expect, from the controlling Jewish mother to terrorists aplenty. Reclaiming these all-too familiar images is only to be expected, though there's little nuance in how they play them out as, for example, power-crazed Israeli guards treat Brent Cross shopping centre like the Gaza Strip.

Often they play things too direct. Not heavy-handed so much, since they have a Glee-style song-and-dance vim that keeps the tone light and brisk, but approaching the subjects so straightforwardly limits the possibility of humour in the grey areas, or giving the audience the pleasure of making the mental leap across the gaps.

Sometimes, whether being oblique or not, their writing loses its way. A comment on how the Jewish victims of atrocities such as Charlie Hebdo have become almost an afterthought, is worth making – but they fumble it with a bizarre logic, and not in a good way, just to get to the blackout. And that's not the only sketch where that happens.

The weakness is in the writing rather than the performance, and the cast of seven's enthusiasm carries the show. All have their moments, though the breakout is the beardy-weirdy Dominic Garfield, instantly funny with his gangly physicality and capable of a brilliant Russell Brand piss-take.

This is one of a handful of scenes that show the bigger they play it, the better the outcome. A ballsy mini-musical about a Burnley schoolgirl seduced by Islamic State is the biggest highlight (Seven Jihadi Brides For One Brother, perhaps?) as it showcases all their talents with a strong sense of direction.

IS inspire a couple of the other stronger ideas, especially one about the British recruit not integrating into the extremist caliphate –  a role-reversal akin to Goodness Gracious Me's classic 'going out for an English' sketch, although the promising idea is again left to fizzle out; another example where despite the simplistic clarity of the mission, the script gets confused carrying it out.

As well as the sketches there are songs, which are a real boon, and stand-up segments from each of the cast, though these tend to be more 'food for thought' vignettes than comic monologues.

This show is clearly aimed at those in the know, there is one pretty indulgent, scene about the Jewish boycott of the Tricycle Theatre after it was declined to accept Israeli Embassy funding for a film festival. You'd have to be pretty enmeshed in the local arts scene to remember this.

Whether Come In! Sit Down! will have an impact beyond its immediate circle is doubtful; though I suspect we'll see more of its stars, especially Garfield and the Gaulier-trained Lauren Silver who has a nice line in comic grotesques.

• Come In! Sit Down! is on at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn, until August 2.

Review date: 28 Jul 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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