House Of Windsor
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2007
The House Of Windsor is unlike anything you've ever seen. Written by and starring Simon Bird, Jonny Sweet and Joe Thomas they are the youngest, freshest sketch group on the Fringe. It's so fast and subtle you won't know where to look, or how to breathe.
House of Windsor are three former Cambridge Footlighters with a smug look and such a restricted performance range that all their characters tend to be middle-class young men with stilted social skills.
Yet they’ve turned these limitations and expectations into their advantage, creating an intriguing collection of sketches with a distinctive, dry flavour and a lot of promise. The trio maintain a fourth-wall detachment from the audience that means their show is often more admirable than it is hilarious, but it is rich with genuinely bright, original ideas.
They always play friends or colleagues in longer-than-average scenes, conversing in slightly oblique sentences until the full picture becomes apparent. They struggle to convey their real emotions through their middle-class politeness, never quite being able to muster unrestrained passion.
Not that their creations are always human, even birds and bears talk like out-of-their depth middle managers or unhappy couples harbouring repressed resentments. This skilful, subtle anthropomorphism makes their animals more rounded than many sketch show’s human characters.
It’s also symptomatic of the inventiveness behind the scripts. From an annoying Tim Henman deluding himself that he won Wimbledon, to fundamental management changes at Legoland, the premises are inspired and their execution never ordinary. Some scenes really fly, the brothers at their father’s death-bed who can’t quite get over the age difference between them is infinitely better than such a straightforward description can convey, likewise the man who ‘has’ a baby and wants his friends to help bring it up. Not all the scenes produce the laughs so reliably, but a good half of them do.
Simon Bird, Jonny Sweet and Joe Thomas are certainly a stylish act, and will probably appeal to the sensibilities of a Radio 4 listener who demands their comedy with class. This may be the first time we’ve heard of them as a trio, but it surely won’t be the last.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett