Why The Long Faces?

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

This is a two-woman sketch show of humble ambition. A midday slot in a small venue for just a week of the festival is hardly screaming 'monster hit'.

But mighty things have come from such inauspicious acorns (ask Perrier-winners Wil Adamsdale or Laura Solon), and, after all, Vicky Frango and Sally-Anne Hayward's Why The Long Faces? has already been made into a TV pilot.

In the final judgment, it's a modest success, to match its modest place in the Fringe programme. It's always watchable, sporadically funny, and only costs a fiver. Not a major revelation, but a decent, low-key start to a day.

They are both well-spoken middle-class gals, but make a virtue of fact, rather than apologising for it. Hayward tends to play closer to type ­ shrill, overexcitable 'yummy mummy' characters ­ while Frango's range is wider: from slack-jawed supermarket till girl to a dull, and male, sales rep with an anoracky, perverse knowledge of Britain's road system. Fellow stand-up Paul Kerensa is drafted in to fill the odd role, too.

Some of the characters have been done before, like that tedious human TomTom of Frango's; while Hayward's mutton-acting-as-lamb 'fun mum' is a touch too close to Ab Fab's overgrown teenager Eddie, albeit a more perky and less sultry version.

There are plenty of more distinctive, more appealing characters, but often they are too close to reality to be truly funny, and with monologues that need 'gagging up'.

Yet 'hit and miss' can be applied to this, like so many other, sketch shows ­ and there are good ideas among the more mediocre. The bored, boring office worker with a true-to-life catchphrase is one, ditto the sweaty, hateful traffic warden, the course, rasping showbiz agent and the competitive nuns. And a German language tape scene is a bizarrely funny take on an idea that's been done before, though they might have been best advised to avoid the payoff they were inevitably drawn towards.

The show's needs tougher script editing and a strong directorial hand to address the inconsistencies in characters and problems with pace: many sketches seem too long, while others are too short.

And if anyone were to take that job, first thing to tackle would be a way of handling the dull practicalities of scene changes to avoid seemingly interminable moments of darkness as the pair clatter to find the right props backstage.

But there's certainly potential in maybe half the creations on display, which, with a bit of sharpening, would not be out of place in a TV sketch show. That pilot may yet be money well spent.

Steve Bennett

 

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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