Get a Life!

The sketch show can be a difficult beast to tame. On the plus side, it can enjoy all the advantages of speed, with situations and characters broadly drawn and performed, and visited only long enough to give the punchline some... well, punch. On the negative, it can verge on being "bitty", of feeling disconnected and lacking a narrative thrust to carry the audience along to a hopefully satisfying conclusion. Swings and roundabouts, you might say.

This is a writer clearly striving for more than just cheap, easy laughs.

Playwright and novelist David Henry Wilson's solution to this, in a show written for actors John Shedden and Finlay McLean of Splinter Productions, is to lay down threads between the sketches, sometimes repeating or referencing previous characters, not least the gaunt skeleton who features so prominently in the show's publicity. Shedden and McLean also have some fun, not least in the two "interviews" with notable Shakespearian characters (Shylock and Hamlet) which are split across the two halfs of the show, in the latter sketch referencing the other roles they had played. Plus the show begins and ends with The Singer.

Promoted as a "not altogether crazy look at a crazy world", this is arguably as much about "funny peculiar" as it is "funny ha ha"; Wilson is a writer clearly striving for more than just cheap, easy laughs, and the final twists in some of the situations portrayed here are more philosophical than laugh-out loud funny. Some, such as "Uptopia", about an alien form of life comparing our civilisation to its own, have all the surprise of a lesser episode from the old "Tales from the Unexpected"; others, most notably "The Death Artist", are perfect little diamond nuggets of drama.

Some targets (for example, self-serving local councillors, lazy workmen abusing health and safety legislation) give proceedings a slightly conservative air, although mockery of some "Bring Back the Good Old Days" Old Critics balances things somewhat. The overall problem, though, is that while these sketches are, for the most part, "well made", there isn't anything that could be described as truly memorable. Get a Life! may look at the world, but has little of depth to say.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

John Shedden and Finlay McLean (plus skeleton!) perform a series of weird and wonderful sketches, so wacky and off-the—wall, they boggle your mind! You'll meet a variety of hilarious characters from the land of the living (and the dead). Judge the Judge, be starstruck by the Astronomer, eavesdrop on the Prime Minister and the President; witness two extraordinary interviews as Hamlet and Shylock return to rewrite their stories! And even throw your undies at Wolf (the heartthrob) Humperhoven! Out of this kaleidoscope of theatre, social satire, politics and parody emerges a startling view of the crazy world we live in!

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