Skinner & Bell: The Men Who Killed Death
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2006
Dave Skinner (the balding one) is looking for love. Dave Bell (his best friend) is out to cheat Death. Together, they'll uncover a voodoo beard, meet The Girl Whisperer, have an icy dream, narrowly avoid nine angry pygmies, and vie for the love of movie starlet Audrey Tautou. It's a magical comedy adventure
This is another contribution in what seems to be a trend for episodic sketch shows in which the characters embark on an unlikely mission to a cheaply-realised far-away land, encounter a few weirdos, then, by dint of some slapdash scripting, achieve a resolution of shorts.
It's a comparatively simple narrative to put together, but a lot more difficult to get right, as Daves Skinner and Bell prove. The problem is that all the nonsense about trekking up mountains in Tibetstan to rescue a Brian Blessed-type adventurer and track down some mystical death-defying creature isn't all that engaging. And the surreal scenarios all so obviously stupid, you don't care what happens to the two rather bland heroes.
I wasn't expecting Ibsen, but when there's so little empathy with the characters and so little reason to the plot, it makes for unengaging viewing.
The dialogue also sounds so obviously scripted. Real people don't speak in such a way as to leave key information to the end, or temporarily omit it altogether. Only jokes are built that way. In this age of reality and authenticity, it sounds rather a dated style.
If you don't mind that, there are a few halfway decent gags, some puns of varying quality, plus several enjoyably daft props that are revealed with a flourish. There's just not quite enough of them to keep you particularly interested.
The Daves mostly play their pointless silliness in a restrained manner, although they do get to indulge in some over-the-top mugging and silly accents, which livens things up a little, and even sing us a closing song.
But the upshot is still that this is fairly lightweight stuff
and nonsense, with too few laughs to the pound.
Henry Parker - 30/10/2006
I thought the show was brilliant. Hilarious characters, a quirky and original narrative, some lovely one liners, songs, slapstick...I defy anybody (except the Chortle reviewer) not to love these guys!