In UCL Graters’ return to Edinburgh, even the refreshments are violent. The show begins as one cast-member hurls – or at least attempts to hurl – a pineapple at the front row. However, she’s mercifully held back, and the show continues bereft of any serious citrus-related casualties.
A thrilling experience
In keeping with its introduction, UCL Graters’ new sketch show Smashing delivers its punchlines with a anarchic forward thrust. The trio of Huw, Flic, and Heather, along with Alex backstage, demonstrate a willingness to dip their toes into any brand of comedy they fancy, covering straight-laced political satire, surrealism and anarchic ‘improvisational’ comedy. Often the styles intertwine, to great effect, such as during a faux-BBC News report that, whilst otherwise acutely observed, uses crudely drawn stick figures as a stand in for infographics. The jokes come in an extraordinary flurry, and sketches last as long as the group need them to, some lasting only a few seconds, particularly in a hilariously brief Scooby Doo homage at the end.
Huw, Flic and Heather prowl the stage with a confidence and charisma developed in the deepest and darkest of UCL’s student bars. They play excellently together, and to their credit exhibit none of the grating desperation that comes so naturally to nascent student comedians; in keeping with their relentless pace, the trio play at the top of their game through thick and thin. Huw’s unassuming intelligence, the sense that Heather is sincerely having a whale of a time, and the way Flic attacks each line with an almost unblinking intensity gives the trio an exciting, constantly shifting dynamic that roots each sketch in performances that match, if not surpass, the brightness of the writing.
There are some weaker moments; one extended segment imagines Theresa May taking the stage at Glastonbury in an attempt to one-up Corbyn, which whilst tuneful and intelligent, is fairly predictable, and was met with more applause than laughs, out of place among the rest of the generally very funny material. Some other sketches have strange, anticlimactic endings, including a meta-sketch about nihilism whose gratuitously destructive payoff feels like a wasted opportunity.
UCL Graters’ new show competes with other student counterparts, throwing jokes at its audience with such speed that any misfires barely register. Whilst Smashing occasionally dips into navel-gazing, it maintains an energy and forward thrust that keeps it a thrilling experience.