Good sketch comedy is extremely uplifting, and it’s even better when you find it at the Free Fringe in one of the innumerable odd little rooms above bars.
These guys have charm, wit and skill, and they will be firm Fringe favourites before long.
Paul G. Raymond and Luke Manning grab their audience from the very start like the most British of bulldogs, and though they may shake them, they never let them go. Their writing is excellent and their delivery near flawless. How they manage to maintain their energy I do not know, but the physicality of their performance is magnificent throughout, a real lesson to other sketch-groups. Even in the face of front-row flash photography they remain firmly in control, although in that instance they may have exacted a shade too much retribution from the embarrassed miscreant, turning the event into a running joke in its own right. Clearly they can think on their feet as well as write a good sketch, and there is no sense that they are ever distracted or disengaged from the moment.
While they make good use of their obviously different ethnic backgrounds, they do so with a commendably light touch, addressing the issue of race-relations directly but never allowing it to define them. Indeed only two sketches in the whole hour even approach the subject and are both absolute gems. For the most part they concern themselves with dating, the North-South divide, the misuse of magical powers and the perils of the bluetooth headset.
Inevitably, a few of their sketches don’t really work. At certain times, this seems to be due to a surprising drop in pace, when the pauses start to stretch out longer than the jokes would support. At others moments an interesting idea like Jane Bond, the female super-spy facing workplace prejudice and unfair dismissal, simply hasn’t found the right context yet. There are also some structural weaknesses: a narrative sequence established early on is seemingly abandoned very abruptly, only to be brought back later in a somewhat confusing manner. They are guilty on occasion of over-extending pieces which ought to be a little punchier, and of failing to make the main thrust of a sketch clear enough.
These cases are decidedly in the minority, however, and overall this is an hour of really big, solid laughs. The audience absolutely loved them when I was there, and you could tell from the applause at the end that the people in the room were all really glad they’d come. These guys have charm, wit and skill, and they will be firm Fringe favourites before long. Their bandwagon is already setting off, and I strongly suggest you jump on board.