The Gentlemen of Leisure Present: The Death of the Novel

With their smart suits and elaborate PowerPoint presentation, the Gentlemen of Leisure have the air of two eager-to-please, newly qualified teachers trying to pep up an A-level English literature class. Proving that high-brow material doesn't have to be alienating, they take the audience on a romp through the history of the English novel, with witty vignettes on a range of seminal literary moments, from the inspiration for Frankenstein to the Lady Chatterley obscenity trial. The writing is tight and entertaining, and despite the obvious intellectual clout underpinning their humour, it never becomes overly pretentious or mystifying. Their breaks to play Novelist Top Trumps is indicative of the show's clash of high and low culture. Some sections are more successful than others, but the hit-rate is generally high and they keep up enough pace to ride over any rough patches. A masterclass on how to write a novel is a stand-out sequence, while the cringe-worthy 'What the Dickens?!' falls a bit flat. Overall it's solid material, but the comics' slightly pedestrian delivery fails to elevate it to anything exceptional. The Gentlemen of Leisure have put together an original and entertaining show, but it seems their strength lies in writing rather than performance, and their unconventional subject matter isn't enough to set them apart from the standard sketch fare.

The Blurb

Cultural sketch comedy that asks the questions: Is the novel dead or just sleeping? Best of the Fest 2010, ***** 'gloriously entertaining, utterly brilliant' (Scotsman), 'Arts correspondents be warned' (Independent).