The Cleek

The Cleek, an all-female sketch troupe, formed after its members met at Chicago's Second City Training Center. Smiley, energetic and friendly, the quartet are clearly having a good time on stage. It’s not quite clear why they are called The Cleek (which Google tells me is the wooden end of a golf club) but maybe this reviewer is too old to appreciate an alternative spelling of Clique.

This performance is fun and friendly. However, on this particular day, The Cleek lacked punch.

Their show sits firmly within the genre of sketch-improv troupes, sharing a mix of pre-prepared sketches and improv with us. On this particular day sketches included the ‘Oscar winning speech’ game, the alphabet game, the dialogue-from-a-book game and more. The troupe try to keep things fresh by having an audience member pull numbers out of a hat to mix up the order of the day, as well as by incorporating suggestions from the audience.

The challenge with improv is that if you’ve seen other groups stage the same games before, you’re likely to judge the performance on how well they compare. Sadly, this group, while cheerful and enthusiastic, just don’t stand out. Accents wavered, spontaneous plots swerved clumsily and a lot of the pre-prepared sketches had unsatisfying conclusions. One sketch where a girlfriend teaches her boyfriend to argue ended in a way that just didn’t make sense. It’s possible that I missed the meaning, but if I did, others probably did as well. The recurrent grandpa sketch should have been a nice refrain but it just wasn’t that amusing. Having said that, a feminist yoga retreat sketch elicited a giggle or two.

I admire anyone who throws their hat in the ring to do sketch improv; it is surely one of the hardest comedic disciplines, and takes years of practice. But there are plenty of young sketch troupes here at the Edinburgh Festival and it’s a highly competitive genre. Troupes really need to figure out what will make them stand out at the most competitive festival on earth. This performance is fun and friendly. However, on this particular day, The Cleek lacked punch. 

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The Blurb

Sketch! Improv! In-jokes! You're either in or you're out. Or you're part of The Cleek. The most exciting collaboration to come out of Chicago's Second City Training Center since... well, the last one... Featuring award-winning performers from the UK, US and Australia. The Cleek. Say cheek.

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