The Establishment

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the London Clown Festival

Well, huzzah for some good old English clowning, done in the name of Queen and country with bowler hats, stiff upper lips, and an entitled air of superiority.

The Establishment are the embodiment of old-school upper-upper-middle-class conservatism, with broad sketches loosely based around such traditional national pastimes as the boat race, cricket, fox-hunting… and oppressive colonisation.

There is nothing too subtle in their broad pantomime (quite literally in the scene that demands the audience to holler ‘behind you!’). Their alter-egos are cartoonish caricatures acting  arrogantly hoity-toity as they indulge in their boisterous silliness. 

Dan Lees and Neil Frost act out their rambunctious slapstick with childish petulance – even their brollies are from the kids department – while remaining loose enough to riff of each other’s mistakes and roll with audience reactions, making their interaction fresh and sparky.

The caricatures are old-school, as is the entertainment, which has shades of end-of-the-pier family variety. Indeed, when they first take to the stage, in their formal striped pyjamas, the evoke that greatest British institution, Morecambe and Wise in one of their bed-sharing sketches.

Some of The Establishment’s skits may outstay their welcome, a reliance on repetition not always paying off, while the very thing that so expertly defines them, their archetypal Englishness, also becomes something of a straitjacket after a while, since they are constrained by the caricatures.

But along the way, all really is tickety-boo, ship-shape and Bristol fashion. Spiffing!

Review date: 24 Jun 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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