The concept sketch show has been gaining prevalence at the Fringe in recent years, and key proponents of this must be Betamales. It is a serendipitous but also perilous position to be both critics’ darlings and fan favourites, but Superopolis justifies the hype as a real tour de force of sketch comedy.
The theme this year is comic book action heroes (‘Jumping on the Nolan bandwagon’, as one ‘Male remarks) and the setting is the sprawling Superopolis. This is their first year at the Fringe as a five man troupe and it tells; their trademark freneticism and energy is all the more exacerbated by the additional crowding of the performance area, one already rammed with charmingly dilapidated cardboard props and costume.
There is utter commitment to each role, both in ludicrous voice, characterisation and the sweat literally dripping from each troupe member by the end from constant running around.The pace in general is exquisite: the gaps between sketches, which in another show would be regarded as short enough to slide by given the demented pace at which the ‘Males changed costume, set and character, were here marked by short radio interludes played over the speaker.
What is most marked is their variation. No joke was dragged into the ground, and nothing recurred beyond its welcome point; the only true recurring sketch being that of an impossibly strong topless man regaling an audience with sad tales of lost love which was delicately aided by sad piano music. Nothing is overdone, except perhaps the fearsome volume on the speaker which drowned out a couple of early lines; it must be a testament to the quality of this show that missing one word felt like a travesty.
Most prevalent are the fourth wall references, but these are far too delightful to ever grow tiresome: in particular, their attempt to do ‘Rich’s sketch’, an anachronistic and atrociously stilted scene which emerges as being born out of a lack of research in the genre. Equally, the audience interaction is a beautifully sparse device that bookends the show and apparently allows a lucky audience member (forcibly dubbed ‘Brian’) to change the ending of the show, bringing this madcap caper to a regrettable close. Keeping up this level of energy and quality throughout the Fringe will be a tall order, but one suspects the Beta Males are up to the task. I would recommend you attend and find out yourself.