Beard may be appearing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the first time this year, but Rosa Robson and Matilda Wnek aren't newcomers to the student comedy scene, having worked together as part of the Cambridge Footlights. You might expect that the pair would have to scale back their sketch ideas: fewer people means fewer characters, surely?
Well, you'd be wrong. One early sketch, in which Robson portrays not only a nervy man approaching a blind date and the woman he's meeting but also every member of this woman's extended family, sets the tone for things to come. Beard consistently transcend the apparent limits of their setup, eschewing costumes and props but nonetheless gliding through an array of characters whose brilliance relies on nothing more than sharp writing and enthusiastic, sometimes even manic performances.
Alongside Robson and Wnek is keyboardist Steven Birmingham, who provides softly spoken segues and jingles for Beard's increasingly farcically named TV sketches, starting with Have A Go Harry but eventually escalating to Can't Hold Onto Anything For More Than Three Seconds Jess and more. He may not be on the bill, but Birmingham's more substantial contributions, whether as an obnoxious pianist playing countdown music on a TV cooking show or a malfunctioning fusion between Microsoft Sam and Apple's Siri, make for maddening comic foils for Robson and Wnek to work off and take their sketches to new heights.
The show isn't perfect – one sketch about a woman with acid for arms dragged on far longer than its somewhat flimsy premise justified – but the hits comfortably outweigh the misses. Beard put on a show that far exceeds the sum of its parts and bodes well for this young pair’s future.