Pembroke New Cellars, 9.30pm, Tue 5th – Sat 9th March, £5
by Milo Edwards, Marc Shalet, Thomas Fraser and Ryan Hocking
directed by Ivan Gostev
Pembroke’s New Cellars smell remarkably like your typical, sweaty secondary school sports hall. Somewhere you probably witnessed more humour than I did during last night’s show.
It started off well enough; I found myself laughing early on at a sketch which involved a class of poetry students being shot down by their self-assured teacher (Ryan Hocking). He had so little time for other people’s work that, at one point, he quite literally decided to eat it. Thea Hawlin aptly represented the posh, conceited and superficial English student trying to be “deep” through her trails of alliterated academic gobbledegook, and Dan Eastment’s one-liner “I’m so Meta Even This Acronym” was simple and effective. Another great sketch saw Hawlin put a great spin on the typical coffee-date scenario, where she goes on a date with someone she has met online. The mystery man turns out to be a dark, rich, exotic… coffee, but hey, at least he always comes in a small cup. This was definitely one of the funnier punch lines of the show. The majority of the sketches, however, failed to deliver a punch line at all.
Some sketches that were vaguely funny relied on scenarios that are overused in the world of comedy; other sketches that started off funny soon became less so, usually because they were too long, typified by Hocking’s wonderful depiction of excessively camp auctioneer lancing a few too many unoriginal insults at his bidders. Some sketches, which banalised issues such as incest and adultery, had the potential to be funny but usually fell flat.
Despite the general inability of last night’s show to inspire laughter in me, I must say that the actors themselves engaged well with one another and managed to adapt to their changing characters well. What’s more, at no point did they laugh at their own jokes, as is so often the case with amateur comics Hocking in particular stood out, demonstrating a great diversity in the roles he played and played well, especially in his portrayal of a gloomy and dawdling vegetarian at a meat-only restaurant. Milo Edwards seemed to be more comfortable when doing his own sketches, and was often funnier going solo than he was in a group, though he excelled in his role as the boss of a porn company trying to think outside the sleazy box, delivering his lines well, his hand never very far away from his crotch. Hawlin put in a solid performance throughout, however she seemed to be mostly limited to the role of a posh, unsatisfied woman; it would have been good to see a bit more variety in the characters she portrayed.
All in all, I would say that whilst the cast tried to poke fun at typical day-to-day situations, more often than not they refused to turn parody into genuine comedy. That said, I did get a few good laughs out of the performance, and for that I thank the cast – perhaps I was too tough a member of this tough crowd.