Beard

Thu 2nd – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Natasha Tabani

at 03:14 on 4th Aug 2012

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There’s an old cliché that says women don’t make good comedians. Christopher Hitchens actually once went so far as to say that there are no funny female comedians (a bizarre comment, because his work is usually pretty accurate). So, when I went to see Beard I wasn’t expecting to be blown away.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised by this comedy duo (Rosa Robson and Matilda Wnek), and I can honestly say that Hitchens was proven wrong. The girls perform a series of rapidly changing comedy sketches, with good connection as a double act and a shifting power balance from one sketch to the next. It is extremely difficult to establish so many different characters and settings in such a short space of time, and I was impressed by how easily they were able to slip from one situation to the next.

The dialogue is very well written. It is often based on the ‘expect x, get y’ formula, and the twists themselves are sharp and sometimes surreal. I found myself laughing loudly at many unexpected moments. Most of the sketches were pretty inventive, and all were stylized, which contributed towards the sense of congruency as a whole. The technicality of the pieces was great, and some of the earlier sketches even featured as part of later ones.

I thought that the delivery was sometimes a little too fast-paced and slightly ostentatious; they could have done with introducing a bit more subtlety and letting a few of the scenes linger. Many scene transitions were quite messy as there were no indicators to show that the next sketch had started, though this did not detract too much from the performances themselves. A few sketches also contained double character changes, which I found a little disorientating. Some of the accents were less convincing, and should have been either perfected or not used at all.

This is not comedy for women, it is comedy for everyone. That is perhaps the most refreshing thing about it. There are minor kinks in several aspects of performances, but nothing which couldn’t be smoothed out and perfected with practice and over time. The use of irony and playing with the audience’s expectations is extremely well executed from a technical perspective. The jokes are clever and accessible, and the performance is thoroughly entertaining. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys sketch and character-based comedy shows.

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Laura Peatman

at 11:27 on 4th Aug 2012

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One of a cluster of shows at this year’s Fringe to emerge from the breeding ground that is the Cambridge Footlights, ‘Beard’ is not the most revolutionary or earth-shattering comedy show at the festival, but the duo of Rosa Robson and Matilda Wnek certainly offer up plenty of laughs for your money in this new sketch show. The performance was by no means perfect, but they charmed the audience in the intimate atmosphere of the Baillie Room – sometimes by giggling along with us – and by and large kept them onside throughout.

Humour was often created using a standard formula of: set up a joke or scene, lead on the audience, then shift in an unexpected direction. Seeing as it is the element of surprise that enables this kind of comedy, I felt that early on they were in danger of wearing out this recipe, so it was a relief to see more variety emerge as the show continued. The sketches combine sharp wit and physical comedy, with laughter coming from such diverse sources as the language-driven comedy of a translated Spanish soap opera, to the simplicity of some wonderful gurning. Robson and Wnek work seamlessly and professionally as a duo, understanding and complementing each other’s comedic styles. The transition between sketches was however less seamless, as it was sometimes unclear if there was a continuation of a thread, or if a brand new scene was being introduced.

Some sketches sadly did fall a little flat: the ‘wedding dress’ sketch offered potential but didn’t deliver in the conclusion, whilst the ‘time warp’ skit failed to produce the laughs that other moments of the show so easily elicited. With so much promise in general, these weaker moments could do with some re-writing to maintain the standard of comedy throughout that these girls are clearly capable of generating: a standard that was brilliantly shown off in the ‘arcade game’ scenes and the ‘mood app’ sketch, in which Wnek not only offered much hilarity but also dealt admirably with technical errors.

Overall, this duo offer a strong performance combining wordplay, character acting and physicality to create a show that is well worth seeing. It was also refreshing to see two female comedians who did not feel the need to centre their jokes on the fact that they were women, or point out how supposedly unusual it is to be a funny woman on stage. Robson and Wnek just perform, with no gimmicks or agendas: it may not be groundbreaking but it sure as hell is funny.

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