SPLEEN: a New Sketch Show

Tue 22nd – Sat 26th October 2013

reviews

Suzanne Duffy

at 00:08 on 23rd Oct 2013

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The sketches in SPLEEN were consistently good and nicely cohesive, although the drawn-out conclusion was a little too lengthy to sustain the comic momentum. Tom Fraser stood out as the deeply suspicious protagonist of the slowly developed meta-sketches of the sort which anyone who has watched That Mitchell and Webb Look will recognise. That is not to say that the comedy was derivative; in fact the cast (who are also the writers) made sure to explicitly acknowledge when their material was done in a spirit of homage, as with the Monty Python-esque 'Spartacus' sketch.

Memorable moments included the extraordinarily assertive baby whose argument with his passive-aggressive mother became increasingly heated, and the sketch which imagined someone trying to invent misogynistic rap in the flower-power era. The speed dating and the hostage situation scenarios were largely carried by Seb Sutcliffe who has incredible if ridiculous and slightly manic comic talent. The pace and flexibility of the cast is to be commended as much as anything else. They swiftly moved between longer scenes and quick, expectation-subverting pieces which seem to be particularly popular in shows of this type at the moment. The puns came thick and fast which kept the humour punchy (no pun intended- geddit?) and the laughter flowing.

Props were used minimally, although the voiceover was brought in to excellent effect in the side-splitting University Challenge parody. Experienced director Emma Wilkinson clearly knows how to make the most of the small space the Corpus Playroom affords. Chairs were smoothly switched about by the cast during scene changes which hardly registered and the blocking was perfect. This is something that comedy shows often forget to do, probably under the impression that humour comes from words rather than positioning. Yet the fact remains that a sketch won't be funny if it can't be heard or seen and the cast and production team demonstrated their professionalism in making the whole show feel like a well-oiled machine. Performances by top-grade student comedians are always worth a watch, whether or not they are five stars because comedy takes work and refinement, and the only way to untangle the problems in on a stage.

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