Farewell Tim

Thu 21st – Sat 23rd January 2016

reviews

Sarah-Jane Tollan

at 09:30 on 22nd Jan 2016

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Tim is dead. But instead of solemn eulogies, dusty black suits and ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’, Charlie James Robb and Sam Knights gift us with straight white boys, a not-so-unwilling stripteasing magician, and Donald Trump. The result is a zany, fast-paced romp through Robb and Knights’ respective comedic repertoires – both brimming with natural showmanship – set within scenes that are delightfully absurd.

Friends Charlie and Sam have been met with the news that their friend Tim has passed, but their attempt to sanctify him through, well, a sketch show proves problematic when egos begin to loom and memories of Tim clash and confuse. The production itself takes on multiple levels of narrative chronology [characters discussing which sketches to use, muddled flashbacks-sketches of Tim’s life, the performance of the sketch show to the live audience] which enforces the distortion of Tim and their relationships with him even further. It is impressive to witness such a multiplicity of narrative levels all wrapped up into a sketch comedy, creating an analytical role for the audience alongside their raucous laughter, and treating them as intelligent, active participators rather than robots programmed to laugh on cue.

The strength of the production lies with its sketches, and Robb and Knights offer a cacophony of wonderfully bizarre scenes. From a pregnancy check-up with Tim’s mother and a misinterpreted game of ‘Would You Rather?’, to re-imaginings of Macbeth [complete with brazen, Scottish accents] and Donald Trump’s interpretation of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ [involving a sticky, blonde wig that Robb played with to great comedic effect]. It is usually the case with sketch comedy that scenes are drawn on and wrangled for all their worth, but the pleasure in ‘Farewell Tim’ is in watching just over an hour of rapid yet tightly wrought sketches, creating a sense of anticipation in the black-outs between them instead of longings for it to conclude. There is a satisfaction, as well, in knowing that these sketches all link together through the narrative – the predicaments that surround Charlie and Sam’s attempt to remember their friend - in place of being indulgent, performance pieces.

Whilst the production alone was full of perceptive writing, it is hard to imagine the result if Knights and Robb didn’t take the helm as lead performers. Their respective comedic ranges and strengths are vastly different – Robb coolly delivers lines and is almost reminiscent of a jock, whilst Knights plays with physical comedy and buffoonery – and yet they expertly balance one another out to prevent over-exposure and to create a production that seems hardly lacking. Their exchanges appear natural and unforced, and the few improvised lines or mannerisms that they exhibit in response to one another add much to their combined charisma.

‘Farewell Tim’ is an intelligent production rather than typical, sketch show fare: its wild humour creates a robust foundation for its narratives to stand upon, and its commitment to its themes, of friendship and memory, is a delight to behold. The denouement is the jewel of the production, creating a climax involving the motifs and sketches that Robb and Knights have taken the audience through, and attesting to their strength as storytellers as well as comedians. Although their ending note didn’t strike with the same potency as the rest of the production, it would be a shame not to be witness to another collaboration between the two students, giving something other than Tim for the Cambridge comedy scene to celebrate.

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