The Jest: The Five Humours

Like some much of our interaction with the wider world, it starts with a button. If you’re planning on seeing The Jest, press it when prompted (you can’t miss it). If anything, it will give the venue staff one less job to do. This five person sketch comedy group takes us for the next hour through a funny and at times bewildering series of routines.

The Fringe is the perfect place for more experimental work like this and live comedy needs space for The Jest’s manic and grotesque caricatures.

One thing you notice about The Five Humours is how immersive an experience it is. On entering, the audience is greeted with the unconscious figure of cast member Luke Theobald, propped up in a chair with the aforementioned button hanging around his neck. Projected onto a screen behind are a series of commands, followed intermittently through the show by various images of a porcine nature (it makes sense at the end... I think).

The opening scenes seem to have no discernible through-line, nor any sort of thematic continuity. The first sketch requires some audience participation (as a group, not too daunting), and from there it’s onto a post-op hospital room scene, a driving instruction course, a first date, and others. Each is only a few minutes long and is separated by an imposing soundtrack and some disconcerting light changes.

Were it to continue along this line, then the audience would doubtless become bored and begin to lose concentration. However, after a while some recurring jokes and scenarios appear, centring the audience's’ attention when it might have began to wander. A young, would-be magician (memorably acted by Jack Stanley) makes a few appearances, while episodes of network television’s Would You Step Up to the Plate? pop up on more than one occasion.

Withstanding the initial bewildering effect, the scenes are high quality. There are no real punchlines as such, it’s more the set-up than the pay-off these guys concentrate on. The whole production is very tight, very professional, and very clever. Added to this are some impressive comedic acting performances, not least from Theobald, whose uncanny Maggie Smith impression will stay with you long after the show is finished.

There’s a lot to appreciate about this group – a lot of thought has gone into the production and it shows. The Fringe is the perfect place for more experimental work like this and live comedy needs space for The Jest’s manic and grotesque caricatures. Definitely worth a look, especially for aficionados of the genre. 

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The Blurb

Comedy quintet and stars of BBC Radio 4's Sketchorama The Jest are back. A brand new, delightfully dark hour from a sketch group who BroadwayBaby.com described as caring 'more about being comical than seeming cool'. But hey, who's to say we can't be both, right guys? Guys? 'The next big thing in sketch comedy' ***** (Everything-Theatre.co.uk). 'Intelligent, inventive and deliciously absurd' **** (List). 'They've raised the bar for sketch comedy' **** (ThreeWeeks).