Anna and Helen: Stuck In A Rat | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Vault Festival, London
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Anna and Helen: Stuck In A Rat

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Vault Festival, London

It’s possible that more comedians have parodied life gurus than there are real ones, but Anna and Helen use the tried-and-tested formula to strong effect. 

Their debut serves an impressive calling card for their winning chemistry and engaging personas while demonstrating a knack for eccentric wit and fun performance. 

Stuck In A Rat is underpinned by a traditional double-act dynamic: perky Anna O’Grady is enthusiastic if misguided, regularly getting a reality check from the more sensible Helen Cripps, a comic with a hangdog look worthy of Tony Hancock.

On keys and drums, they open with a taut comic ditty that suggests another Flo & Joan, but quickly abandon that avenue, preferring to be slightly out of step with each other. A rehearsed but unlaboured awkwardness permeates all they do, from moving stiffly around the space to trading off-pace dialogue that suggests they’re not quite on the same page. It’s a heightened version of natural conversation, rather than slickly-scripted crosstalk. 

This hour isn’t short of ideas from the pure joy of a picture of a happy animal, to audience interaction, to a double-subversion in a word association segment.

Helen And Anna like to overplay their hand, to slightly mixed effect. They stick with the ‘stuck in rat’ malapropism for much longer than you might think viable, for example. That time it works, even if at other times the gags feel overblown. A couple of sketches even misfire completely, especially when they seem tacked-on such as the one-joke ‘best woman’ wedding speech. 

But they soon move on, refusing to stick to one comic style, which in their capable hands is an asset that delivers variety. Their well-played idiocy, backed by some priceless facial expressions, ensures the act coheres. 

The overwhelming impression from this debut is how innately funny Anna and Helen are, and how instinctively well they work together.

Review date: 9 Feb 2020
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Vault Festival

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