Aberdeen’s Literal Lines bring their confused and incoherent sketch show to Edinburgh for the first time. Over fifty unrelentingly dismal minutes, the cast of five prove just how difficult it is to bring successful comedy to the Fringe in a display from which no-one emerges with much dignity.
Every joke is obvious, every line is played safe and the whole experience is desperately devoid of humour.
The sequencing is bizarre. The first sketch is the best: two sisters chatting about their lives in a café. Morag Skene and Yvonne Heald raise a couple of laughs, although the majority of the sketch is delivered in impenetrably thick Scottish accents that seem almost deliberately difficult to understand for anyone not used to the dialect. After about ten minutes of this, the lights go down and a wholly different premise takes up the rest of the show: Jeremy Kyle goes back in time to solve disputes between historical figures. Why this wasn’t a single sketch is baffling; after seeing three quarters of the show devoted to it we’re left questioning whether the opening sketch ever happened or if it was just a nightmarish hallucination.
The ‘Jeremy Kyle in History’ premise was generally woeful and stretched thinner than Kate Moss on a diet. Elizabeth Reinach, who also wrote this section, sits backstage behind a giant cutout of Kyle, visibly reading the lines from a script without any charisma or sense of comic timing. The rest of the cast do their best, but even they look embarrassed by the end. It’s not offensive or childish humour that’s the source of the awkwardness. In fact, it’s precisely the opposite: every joke is obvious, every line is played safe and the whole experience is desperately devoid of humour. The historical costume changes are so elaborate that after each sketch the lights come down for minutes at a time. Whilst this would normally be a source for complaint, here it’s a blessed relief from the onstage action.
Pieces of Eight is an appallingly unfunny sketch show from grown adults who really should know better.