Shirley and Shirley: Carnage

Last year, comedy duo Shirley and Shirley were Unleashed. This year, they promise Carnage. They are certainly in-yer-face and in the most literal sense: small Shirley conducted a vibrant meet and greet at the door as everyone took their seats, beckoning us into the first few rows, warning us that wherever we sat we ‘would be found’. They promise Carnage and they deliver it to an extent. With sharper, pointier spears however, the comedic butchery could be complete.

Shirley and Shirley are exquisite performers and their energy is seemingly boundless. They have character comedy down to a tee and they don’t embarrass easily. Whether they’re playing masturbating closet homosexuals or sexually-frustrated toothless tramps, they give it their all and enjoy every crude, gory moment. No mercy is taken when embarrassing audience members, as one young man who was dragged on stage and sexually harassed by small Shirley can testify; he along with plenty others who had beach balls quite aggressively chucked at them. Part of the excitement is derived from hoping you don’t get taken hostage, but that you might be allowed to remain laughing (even howling) along as others are.

In line with last year’s show, the array of accents was glorious, particularly street slang rendition of Kate and Pippa Middleton’s sisterly catch-up, the hideously posh gap-yah partakers, the romance between the try-hard Aussie gym instructor and the sexy, sophisticated French teacher. Many of their jokes were courtship-based but always quirky, and this was where they excelled. The duo also don’t shy away from stereotypically ‘crazy women’ material. Eating disorder gags and jokes regarding maternal, marital and sexual desperation all featured.

However, while the sketches were amusing throughout, they often didn’t seem to go anywhere. With no punchlines in sight, they seemed to teeter out without pizazz. This is evidenced in that their funniest sketches were the ones without words. The interpretive dance to Les Mis, with small Shirley geared up in tramp’s attire and large, decaying teeth was marvellous and the series of ironic Calvin Klein adverts, timed perfectly throughout the show, were also a treat. On the other hand, the brief interludes of stand-up were thankfully brief and did not stand their own against the sketches. They were somewhat bland, with the duo going through the motions of insulting each other’s appearances, heights and drinking tendencies.

It is notoriously difficult to find sketch groups with both top notch performing skills and writing abilities and Shirley and Shirley prove most successful at the former. With a bit of practice on their punchlines though, these girls could really kick up a fuss, and with sharper points, carnage could well and truly commence.


The Blurb

The stars of Radio 4's Sketchorama return with another 'tour-de-force of a comedy show' **** (List). 'No time to draw breath between belly laughs' **** ( 'The hour flew by' **** (ThreeWeeks).