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Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Sharp, inventive and skillfully executed by charismatic performers, there’s plenty to admire in new sketch trio Sheeps – although I did spend more time thinking ‘that’s impressive’ or ‘nicely done’ than losing myself to laughter.

It’s only their debut, but Liam Williams, Daran Johnson and Alastair Roberts are a well-oiled, precision engineered comedy machine, already sounding like they are on Radio 4 – which, as recent Cambridge Footlights graduates, is pretty much their birthright.

But slickness and confidence shouldn’t be confused with smugness, and the trio have largely strived for, and achieved, an impressive originality of ideas. Stand-out sketches involve the well of inspiration both Abba and the Bee Gees mined for their hits, an alternative musical based on Oliver Twist, and a demolition of the romantic myth that there’s wisdom to be had from gentlemen of the road.

There’s delight in the detail, from the slightly awkward physicality to subtle nuances in the writing. What really raises the stakes on a Black-Eyed Peas band meeting is not the brinksmanship that drives it forward, but the way’s name is rolled around the tongue, slightly inaccurately, in a silly running joke.

As performers they bring real emotion to their creations: Splay, the beautifully named mutant friend created by a lonely Dr Frankenstein-like father, is surprisingly poignant, and there’s some pathos to that Black-Eyed Peas scene.

They are all good actors, and while Roberts tends to dominate with the more theatrical comedy grotesques – and there’s even a sketch that addresses such scene-stealing – the more naturalistic performances of the others keep things grounded. Despite a few nods to addressing it, they are not, however, the most innately relaxed of performers and a bit more looseness might build a stronger rapport with the audience.

That said, they get laughs, hearty and often, mainly, but not exclusively, from their own youthful demographic. This is an assured debut, bursting with potential to be the next big middle-class sketch group on the Fringe, and maybe beyond. But it’s still just a possibility at this stage.

Review date: 20 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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