Edinburgh Fringe 2000 (59)
Edinburgh Fringe 2001 (316)
Edinburgh Fringe 2002 (354)
Edinburgh Fringe 2003 (376)
Edinburgh Fringe 2004 (422)
Edinburgh Fringe 2005 (415)
Edinburgh Fringe 2006 (547)
Edinburgh Fringe 2007 (668)
Edinburgh Fringe 2008 (733)
Edinburgh Fringe 2009 (773)
Edinburgh Fringe 2010 (927)
Edinburgh Fringe 2011 (963)
Edinburgh Fringe 2012 (1022)
Edinburgh Fringe 2013 (687)
Melbourne 2005 (26)
Melbourne 2006 (29)
Melbourne 2007 (31)
Melbourne 2008 (36)
Melbourne 2009 (36)
Melbourne 2010 (56)
Melbourne 2011 (36)
Melbourne 2012 (46)
Melbourne 2013 (57)
Misc live shows (203)Montreal 2004 (6)
Montreal 2006 (10)
Montreal 2007 (15)
Montreal 2008 (17)
Montreal 2009 (17)
West End run (14)
See Less »
Sandra Bernhard: Without You I'm Nothing 2009
School For Gifted Children
Scott Capurro's Position
Scottish Comedian Of The Year 2006
Scottish Comedian Of The Year Final 2007
Scottish Comedian Of The Year Final 2008
Sean Hughes: Leicester Comedy Festival
Secret Policeman's Ball 2006
Secret Policeman's Ball 2008
Service With A Smile
Slap And Giggle: Rehearsed
Spinal Tap: Back From The Dead
Spymonkey’s Love In
Stand Up Drink Up
Stand Up For Palestine
Stand Up Get Down
Stephen Grant: Up Front, Theatre Royal Brighton
Stewart Lee: What Would Judas Do?
The Stockholm Syndrome
Stockholm Syndrome [Glasgow]
Stoolpigeon: Postcards On The Edge
Susan Murray: 21st Century Fox
Show type: Misc live shows
Showcase for new comedy writing
Sitcom Trials Final 2009
Sitcoms have been written off as a dying breed forever- – although no one would think to write off another genre, cop shows, say, in quite the same offhand way.
As all the rerun channels show, find the right characters and the right formula, and there is actually an insatiable appetite for such narrative character-driven comedy; although it’s a lot easier said than done.
The Sitcom Trials has been giving aspiring writers the chance to have their scripts performed in front of an audience for more than a decade – and still not produced a sitcom that’s made it to air. And, despite the esteemed panel of telly talent-spotters at the final of this year’s event, that probably won’t change imminently.
The five, 15-minute scripts expertly performed in the packed basement studio of London’s Leicester Square Theatre seemed to fall into two categories: either those that seemed too safe and formulaic or those that were just too esoteric to engage an audience week after week. It’s an almost impossible balance to get right.
Three of the five, for example, revolved around a new arrival in a shared house…. What will happen when Mr Chalk moves in with Mr Cheese? Hilarious consequences no doubt.
In the first, Boarders you couldn’t have wanted more obvious stereotypes. Josh, a brayingly posh City gent with red braces and horsey laugh finds himself flatmates with Lizzie, a sweary, aggressive schemie Glaswegian. Cue lots of cross-border banter, playing up the old national rivalry with amusing, if faintly predictable lines. Two plots are squeezed in: one about criminals calling in one of Lizzie’s debts, while the other is that overused standby of inspiration-starved sitcom scriptwriter: the speed-dating night. It added to the feeling that this was a sitcom like hundreds you’d seen or heard before.
From Riga To Rotherham also used the ‘unlikely flatmates’ setup – putting no-nonsense Nigerian hairdresser Patience under the same roof as blunt Latvian cab-driver Marian and English slacker Jay. And talk about the sort of unrealistic plots that only ever happen in sitcom writers’ heads: Patience had lied to her mother that she was married to a nice, wealthy English man – and, guess what, she’s arriving from Nigeria tomorrow!!!!!
This breaks just about every rule of modern sitcom thinking, but it was easily the best on offer on the night, thanks to the sharpness of the writing around that framework. No opportunity for a gag was missed, and the script by first-time comedy writer Dean Hardman bristled with funny, smart backchat that seemed natural, not gags bolted on to a reliable old structure. Even the unforgivably clichéd ‘…and that was just the teachers!’ gag didn’t drag down the average too much.
The characters were strong, too – they may have had a touch of stereotype about them, but it was never far from being gently challenged. The TV execs judging on the night seemed to agree – crowning it the winner – but there was unlikely to have been much dissent.
The House On Cedar Street was a slightly more surreal flat-share scenario, with a wilfully weird relationship between two friends Laurence and Elliot who start the day with song-and-dance numbers from South Pacific, and end it by snuggling up to read bedtime stories such as The Racist Prince. Into this surreal co-dependent relationship seeming comes, Hannah, a fragile obsessive-compulsive girl who shares too much. This offering was a strange one, but the unreal tone was inconsistent over even 15 minutes, let alone any longer; but all credit for being ambitious.
Trainspotting goes all-out for strangeness, with an unlikely mob of characters inhabiting the same train station, making bogus announcements over the Tannoy and fretting about which exact shade of beige is the correct colour to express the current level of security alert. It seems less like a sitcom than a collection of sketches, stupid puns and stand-up ‘bits’. There were some very funny moments, aided by an especially strong cast and the made-for-comedy features of Al Constantine, yet it didn’t quite hold together as a sitcom. However, it’s not hard to see how the hyper-reality and the gaggy writing could be honed into a cult favourite.
Welcome To The Jungle is set in a sleepy charity shop, in which the most thrilling thing to happen is the delivery of another batch of unwanted Robert Ludlums. Writer Peter Higgins has some fun with listing the sort of tat people drop off, but that’s about it – and it’s hard to see how this one gag, and the lack of action, would sustain this over two episodes, let alone a series. The unrealised dreams of the young assistant are a promising idea, but the potential was, ironically enough, unrealised.
Thousands of people claim to have ideas for the next great sitcom, but very few do anything about it – and The Sitcom Trials is a valuable way of converting good intent into concrete action. So it comes as little surprise that there’s a ‘work in progress’ feel to the scripts on offer, especially given that even the biggest TV hits rarely hit the ground running with all the money and expertise that goes into them. But as a conduit for helping new writers find their voice and gain experience at having their words performed by skilled actors, The Sitcom Trials are performing a vital service.
|Date of live review: Friday 15th May, '09|
Review by Steve Bennett
No comments are currently available for this show.