Monkey Butlers

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

The Monkey Butlers is a quartet of moderately established stand-ups who’ve chosen to take a foray into sketch comedy – and what a traditional, old-fashioned form of the genre they’ve produced. The characters and situations all immediately identifiable and play out to a sure formula the audience is safely familiar, perhaps over-familiar, with.

But the one thing they’ve largely missed out from that formula is jokes, or certainly enough of them. There’s one fantastic moment, set in a police interrogation cell, and maybe four or five other laughs – but that’s a thin return in an hour.

Most the sketches start with the germ of a half-amusing idea, then do little to watch it grow. That an emaciated hostage seen on TV provokes failed dieters to try to follow suit, that a hardened criminal just needs a good hug or that a divorced couple bid, literally, for their child’s affections with gifts.  They’re all moderately amusing ‘what ifs…’ but are never properly developed beyond that, or into interesting new ideas.

There’s one recurring sketch that’s completely bizarre - that all the one-hit wonder chart acts from the Eighties have gone underground, literally, to terrify potholers –  which again is a simple, if  surreal idea, that doesn’t deserve to be spun out so long.

It – like the hostage idea – eventually builds into a power-packed finale, but only for the impact the assured performances give it:  there’s little contribution from the script.

Ultimately, it’s the quality of the acting that saves this show from its considerable shortcomings in writing. These comics sure make great actors, nailing their characters immediately, effectively and convincingly.

Zoe Lyons has had the training, and it shows. Paddy Lennox has quite a talent for broad comic caricatures, while Hal Cruttenden and Caimh McDonnell are more like character actors: Cruttenden a polite, slightly apologetic, middle-class Guardian reader (a modern-day Richard Briers, if you like) and McDonnell best as a grinning, gormless fool.

This quartet have certainly shown they have the ability to spread their wings beyond stand-up – it’s just that they need much better writing to put some wind  beneath them.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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