Aeneas Faversham Returns

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Often, the biggest problem sketch groups have is achieving a coherence in style. How to make all those disparate scenes share a theme or a distinctive feel? It’s a problem the four-man Penny Dreadfuls troupe solve brilliantly by setting all the action in the Victorian era.

Aeneas Faversham Returns presents a formal, well-mannered world of gentlemen detectives, flamboyant conjurors and stiff-upper-lip soldiers defending Queen and Empire in the Crimea. The emotionally stifled era lends almost everything a dark, Gothic air, which contrasts nicely with the silliness of much of the writing.

The foursome are excellent performers, too, as witnessed from the very first sketch, in which they build up the heart-rending scene of an officer shot in battle with great artistry, only to puncture in with a brilliant gag – and lots of follow-ups beside.

Likewise, the respectable Army hero failing to communicate with his father, a senile, bonkers judge offers a wonderful series of daft non-sequiteurs, while the naïve girl who just cannot see just how creepy her awful fiancé is another delightful scene.

These sketches are near-classic, impressive by any standards, not just the Fringe’s, and skilfully exploit the natural melodama of the age. But they’re in the minority, with too many other examples seeming to simply tread water. The performances may still be faultless but the script needs punching up.

The foursome – Jamie Anderson, Humphrey Ker, David Reed and Thom Tuck – have apparently already landed an Aeneas Faversham radio series, which comes as no surprise, as it’s a great idea, brilliantly executed. But in this second live hour, there is a little too much filler surrounding the gems.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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