Leicester Square Theatre Sketch-Off 2018 final | Gig review by Julia Chamberlain © Steve Ullathorne

Leicester Square Theatre Sketch-Off 2018 final

Gig review by Julia Chamberlain

Glossing over the 40-minute late start, Colin Hoult as Anna Mann got this final off at a cracking pace, his waspish commentary about the contestants making a brave choice to do something ‘nobody wants’ with sketch comedy. His/her shtick of theatrical anecdotes allowed for tart remarks about the audience, the acts and the event. 

First cab off the rank was The Delightful Sausage, whose commitment to weird and awkward endeared them greatly to the crowd. They had a pantomime Northerness and Amy Gledhill, the Sausage part of the duo, had a knack for physical comedy which anchored the silliness with some grace.  They mainly performed in parallel, facing front, backing up their skits with projected animations.   

 Following this very contemporary oddness,  Sam and Tom seemed in the traditional, tweedy Oxbridge mould, they could have slotted seamlessly in to a Beyond the Fringe or Python set-up, with a comic interrogation of a children’s story event and then an interrupted phone confession.  I loved it – sharp and witty never dates – even if the threads were Alan Bennett circa 1963.  

Adrian Gray maintained the smart humour with a set from his millennial man,  a piece of subtle character comedy which could grace any decent comedy club or have a TV segment. Subtly spiked with excellent malapropisms, he provoked gales of laughter, making me think of Grayson Perry’s Default Man, whose world view is that he is the norm by which every other person is judged. Excellent work and a personal favourite.  

Hot Mess pumped up the pace with fast sketches, ad parodies and obvious targets like Tinder and parents’ evenings, the two actors supporting and flowing with each other beautifully.   

Next up, Bread and Geller, who eventually took third place, absolutely commanded the audience, ultimately getting them to sing an unembarrassed rendition of Happy Birthday. Their precise approach to some surreal moments won great support, the surreality actually worked, so the more conventional short item about leaving mum in a home that closed their set was slightly anticlimactic, but they drew the first half to an exuberant close. 

Lois Mills' character comedy clinched the night, her deliberate awkwardness as an actor impressed the judges into giving her first place, her broad Yorkshire accent hammed up to create some verbal hilarity (‘emotions’ sounded like ‘immersions’) although I found her  screaming into the audience member’s face a bit trying.

She made a virtue of a the kind of behaviour that would get you sectioned without a stage lights and a microphone, pulling her dress off over her head and yelling.  But her uninhibited physical silliness and confidence to take a relaxed pace paid off.   

Moon were two men in white  overalls, a good stage look, with excellent writing in their three sketches on plastic surgery,  then a sinister turn in a chocolate tasting job and some surprisingly affecting acting of a young boy wanting his dad to return which turned ridiculous and amusing. 

The trio of Bad Clowns that followed were self-indulgently silly, gurning with some deliberately appalling wordplay reminiscent of trying to write for Punt and Dennis or the Two Ronnies, but being way off the mark.  They brought a great deal of energy and volume to proceedings, but it looked like a stag party thinking to entertain a train carriage on the way to Twickenham. Singlets, headbands and trunks don’t make something funny if it doesn’t already have it.  

Birds maintained some of the physical energy of the previous act, and showed how much better it is when combined with control and good writing.  The skydiving skit with which they opened was particularly strong. as was the closing Bond audition.  They conveyed a sense that they were enjoying themselves, without being manic, which was completely infectious.  

The last act on were the Agenda Benders, a male/female duo which combined a strong look (him tall and lanky, her short and round) with some lightning-fast sketches that tumbled out of them very enjoyably, probably with the highest number performed in the time permitted.  

They were super-lick without being smug and closed the competitive part show on a high note and earned themselves second place.  Last year’s winners, the trio that is Muriel, did an excellent set that probably would have won again had  been allowed to enter. 

Overall this was a strong night with no embarrassingly weak links.  The sketches fell roughly into two camps, physical clowning and surreality, versus crisp writing and performance. I was impressed with the quality of some of the gags, better than many new stand-ups offer.  An audience mainly comprised of friends and family, by the look of it had a very good night. 

Review date: 26 Mar 2018
Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain
Reviewed at: Leicester Square Theatre

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