As their hotel receptionist alter-egos, Henry Perryment and Joe Barnes help us check into The Hotel Après Vie for an hour of horror movie-themed entertainment.
With a few tweaks, this could be a top notch hour
There’s a lot to like about the duo from the off as they battle through a raging storm in the guise of two non-British travellers, finding themselves at the door of some mysterious residence. A disembodied voice greets them booms overhead, asking them where they are from. “Ehhhh…”, is their response, acknowledging the vagueness of their accents.
“Europe, we think? Maybe somewhere in Germany?”
Like many other sketch duos, their main conceit is just a vehicle for the pair to show off their comedic instincts. Simply playing with funny voices is a constant source of laughs throughout, from the faux-Dublin lilt of the Irish bartender, to the Jimmy Stewart character pleading with his pregnant wife. It’s clear that hours have been spent in front of bathroom mirrors perfecting the physical and verbal tics that are such strong features of the act.
We’re zoomed around the hotel, meeting a pastiche of characters. The writing, in the first half especially, is very sharp. It’s fast-paced stuff as each sketch builds quickly to the punchline before we tumble straight into the next skit, with characters rarely overstaying their welcome. Whether scripted or not, the bits where Perryment and Barnes ‘break’ character (fumbling a line or taking up the wrong position) are negotiated extremely well, with the wink toward the fourth wall provoking volleys of laughter around the room.
There is a small drop in momentum as we reach the forty-minute mark, however. It’s not for a lack of material, more the sense that the show isn’t going in any particular direction. The hour is not narrative driven by any means but there is an underlying feeling that the succession of characters could continue ad infinitum. This is not necessarily a bad thing, given the pair’s obvious talent, but a bit more effort to flag up in advance the series of callbacks that finish things out would be no bad thing.
With a few tweaks here and there, this could be a top notch hour. In any case, it’s definitely worth the ticket price – there are more than a few characters in there that are a joy to behold.