I feel like I’ve been on one of those jerking, rattly, helter-skelterish roller-coasters. I’m finding it difficult to coherently fit all the glimpses and fragments of inverted reality into some linear fashion.
This is not undesired, however; the play is described as a ‘big ball of bizarre theatrics.’ Bizarre is an understatement, the show is a Björk dress of a spin on entertainment. The problem with this rogue attitude towards convention is that there is a tightrope walk between the luminous creativity, energy, and eccentricity of a director/writer like Jack Sanderson Thwaite, and presenting entertainment in a manner coherent enough for an audience to appreciate the wackiness. It is a quadruple loop the loop, bruise your head repeatedly on the safety harness sort of a feat to pull off, but equally astounding to witness if done successfully.
The show is a series of manic, energetic, and balmy sketches, which are light hearted and blunderingly silly. They have principal, recurring characters, and there is a tenuous thread between the scenes which is sometimes so puny as to be terminally threatened with extinction. However, there it remains, against all odds, evidenced now and then by the players’ mocking of form by ‘accidentally’ dropping catch-phrases from their other personas, culminating in one sketch based entirely on the actors doubling up and playing other characters. This is one of the most successful sketches in the play, it is no easy task to make humour work with solely the parody of style and physiognomy as a comic foundation, and it works with sophisticated ironic ease.
The comedy is illogical and absurd, the idea being that the Irreverence Realm is replete with surrealism, the humour of this idea is Pratchett-esque in its creation of a world which is a ludicrous version of our own. So the ideas are psychedelic; we have desperate, pasty-faced fruit and vegetable addicts, a slow motion stick ‘em up gang, and a ‘wise man’ with a special hat. Some flow like molten chocolate joyously towards rapturous laughter, whilst others give us a more jolting, stultified ride. The ideas are impressive, and Sanderson- Thwaite’s talent is in evidence abounding. Comments on Python influence are unavoidable amongst student comics, as they are amongst comics in general; such is their ubiquitous, silly influence on sketch shows and with non-sequiturs and daftness replete, this show is no exception. This is not a threat to the internal-organ- rattling enjoyment of the kaleidoscopic treats on display, but the lack of pace at times is a difficulty.
The comics themselves are a pyrotechnic, harmonious mix of personalities, which adds a depth to the humour. One needn’t worry about a show in the masterful hands of Alex Craven’s dry, sardonic wit, James Rupasinha’s nervous fumbling and gaping, worried eyes, and Sarah Hillman’s hilarious physical presence. All these elements create a symphony of comedy which is alone worth seeing. James Callender has the challenging role of ‘compare extrodinaire’ who speaks to the audience and is our fourth-wall-breaking guide. He is intentionally verbose and nervous, the reason why is unfathomable, as he ends up looking like he soiled his underwear. Although he has moments of brilliance, he is in danger of being upstaged by his multicoloured hair. However, he does have the gravitas and charisma to pull off a difficult role.
The show is a dizzy whirl of flashes of comic delight and moments of jolting halts, the problem is the difficulty in pulling on the reigns of form and style to add a cogency which will stop it from descending into a free-fall of things that seemed like a good idea in the pub last night. Generally, the play achieves this, and is a very good offering for student comedy, but when roller-coasters make my head spin too much, I always want to get my feet back on firm ground.
Dir. Jack Sanderson-Thwaite