Mixed Doubles | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Canal Cafe Theatre

Mixed Doubles

Note: This review is from 2013

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Canal Cafe Theatre

This youthful sketch quartet are barely a year old, having formed while at a London drama school last summer. And while their cheeky enthusiasm is infectious, their relative inexperience also shows, as they frequently tap obvious ideas without taking them into new directions.

Teenagers pecking on their phones and calling each other ‘babes’ as they speak in acronyms is – FYI – sooo 2006. Similarly, over-competitive middle-class parents hyping up their children’s achievements is an all-too familiar trope, merely repeated here. And they’ve noticed that modern song lyrics are hardly a romantic way to woo – but just reading them out next to Shakespearean poetry to show the contrast isn’t smart enough.

Stylistically, too, their show is either dated or ‘classic’, depending on your point of view, with a such a traditional format that you might mistake them for a forgotten Eighties Radio 4 sketch troupe getting a rerun on 4 Extra.

Yet they are not always so unambitious, and maybe a third of their sketches show a real flair for the silly, without ever departing from the tried-and-tested formula. Smashing fact and fiction together proves a particularly fruitful technique for them, whether it’s having an ineffectual police community support officer tacking a Gotham City master-villain, or a vampire calling for an end to the media stereotyping of his ethic group.

It’s the performances that sell, though. Rose Robinson has a particular flair for comic exaggeration rooted in reality - from a supposedly coquettish squeal as she flirts with a colleague to a pathetic Big Bad Wolf, she has a knack of stealing scenes.

Paul Aitchison is one to watch, too, with a talent for the world-weary deadpan – though his recurring character of the surreal Scottish folk singer is no Rambling Syd Rumpo.

The foursome is completed with solid, if less distinctive, performances from Will Close and Megan Smith. Yet all four have a keen sense of timing and an impish twinkle to their personality that wins over audience.

By the hour’s end, the writing starts to match the appeal of the acting, with engagingly silly scenes involving some famous fictional big cats, and, separately, a new convert to Game Of Thrones.

Such sketches suggest writing talents underdeveloped in other parts of the show. If they could resist the lure of the obvious more often, there’s potential here for them to make more of a name for themselves, even if they’re unlikely to become barrier-breakers.

Review date: 27 Sep 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Canal Cafe Theatre

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