Slaughterhouse Live's Yard Of Battenberg
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
The Comedy Store's smash-hit character-cabaret returns with an explosive new show! Witness Pat Stephens and His Musical Eyes, 'Human-Clarinet' - Spacker Bilk, double-act Knockers and Cocks, Four Fat Folkers... and more!
In a Fringe dominated by slick sketch groups and careerist stand-ups, this lively Manchester-based quartet contribute some old-fashioned end-of-the-pier shenanigans, but given a suitable post-ironic Vic Reeves-style twist.
They’re a bit hit and miss – well, they’re a sketch group, it’s in the rules – but they get by on a combination of cheesiness, self-deprecation and energetic performance.
Through the velvet curtains of this modern-day Wheeltappers and Shunters club comes a parade of eclectic and bizarre variety turns, offering a bubbling cauldron of bad taste, bad drag and bad puns. Where many comedy performers draw their creations in intricate detail, this lot do it with a blunt felt-tip, unconcerned with whether they go over the edges or not.
It’s all a matter of bloody-minded confidence which characters work best, if the audience is sold the ridiculous ideas strongly enough, they tend to be accepted in the cheap and cheerful spirit in which they are intended.
Best of the lot are Knockers and Cox, a fast-talking double act full of corny old jokes (plus one, unacceptably, stolen from Lee Mack) who suddenly come over all religious, in true Cannon and Ball style.
Then there’s Pope John Small, a bit of silly puppetry to animate the world’s smallest pontiff, blind juggler Alan Sonar and spoof musicians Four Fat Folkers. Although some of these characters are a couple of years old now, and will be very familiar to those who’ve seen the group before.
Among the newer offerings, a documentary about a man inflicted with a condition in which he thinks his arms are longer than they are is as funny as it is inventive, while Spacker Bilk is in jawdropping bad taste, which it’s probably not funny enough to overcome, but he certainly scores high on the shock value.
Less successful are the Scottish folk group, perhaps a perfunctory nod to the locals, and a motivational lecture by Dale Media, although even this throws up a couple of hilarious, if cheaply produced, PowerPoint frames. Tellingly, these sketches also the most restrained in the performing.
A previous unhealthy obsession with disgusting offal seems, thankfully, to have been dismissed, leaving Slaughterhouse Live with a winning sense of mucking-about fun that pervading all they do.
It’s this that leaves the strongest impression, giving the hope that they will be able to turn the best of their high jinks into something more consistent over the full hour in Fringes yet to come.