The Cleek

Wed 6th – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Rowena Henley

at 20:44 on 20th Aug 2014

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Here at EdFringe Review, we have seen our fair share of improv sketch shows. Regrettably, the general standard has fluctuated from average to poor and a diminishing amount of faith in this genre has become apparent. In fairness, a successful improv formula is extremely precise and incredibly difficult to execute. Miraculously, four girls from the Second City Training Center in Chicago (Caroline Kaplan, Lizzy Mace, Shania Wagner and Eva Victor) calculated this formula, adapted it to their own style, identified the comedy zeitgeist of our time and, thus, The Cleek was formed.

The premise of this show was the key to its success. To start, one audience member was awarded ‘Queen Bee’ of The Cleek. In this case I was the lucky chosen one and it was my job to pull out pieces of paper from a jar that told the team their next sketch to perform (along with further contributions from the audience). The implementation of this tricky idea was exceptionally slick and the girls were entirely in control of the situation. At no point did I feel nervous for the direction of the piece, which is often the case at improv sketch shows.

The sleekness of this performance was evidently down to the strong chemistry between the cast. A classic downfall for improv shows occurs when the actors believe they are bigger than the show. The fight for the spotlight will, without exception, cause the most severe damage to the outcome of any joint improvisation. For The Cleek ladies, this was simply not a problem. They read each other’s next move with virtual telepathy and the timing of each sketch was flawless, contributing significantly to the hilarity of the show.

Although I admired all the girls onstage, special mention must be given to Eva Victor. Victor had me in stitches every single time she was onstage. My favourite of her characters has to have been the obsessive Doctor Sue. Every move and line perfectly portrayed the ridiculousness of the role and Victor’s talent would not be out of place in a popular comedy sitcom.

In conclusion, I could not recommend this show more highly. The brilliance of The Cleek is hidden within the Free Fringe. I hope these ladies soon get the true recognition they deserve.

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Flo Layer

at 21:37 on 20th Aug 2014

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Does a free fringe improv and sketch comedy show that actually has the ability to make the audience laugh uncontrollably even exist at the fringe this year? Fortunately it does! The four strong female cast of The Cleek redeem the reputation of improv with their fabulously original and hilarious show.

The show combines previously devised comedy sketches alongside short improvised scenes requiring input from the audience. One unsuspecting spectator is nominated as ‘Queen Bee’, asked to wear a silly blow-up crown and requested to read prompts for the title of each short performance. It remains incredibly fast paced; each performer switching between a huge variety of characters with incredible ease and high energy.

Some of the most brilliant sketches include ‘School Run’ with an absolutely fantastic short sketch of a mother waving her child off to school, only to invite her back to the room for her home-tutoring, and ‘Questions’, a set of three short scenes where an ignorant and prejudiced grandfather questions his daughter about popular culture with hilarious effect – “that’s a picture of Barack Obama Grandad, the first black President”... “a black President?!”.

Even in the improvised sketches, none of the performers are fazed by awkward or unlikely suggestions from the audience. A forced alphabetised conversation between two women set in communal showers is especially snort-worthy, and a game where the actors are forced to continually change their choices in a brilliantly funny lisping dialogue between two children in a sandpit in a playground is another highlight.

Each performer has their own especial comic strengths in performing a hilarious range of diverse characters. Lizzy Mace’s overly ‘open minded’ mother figure and Eva Victor’s creepy and stalkerish Doctor Sue character are just two of too many brilliant characters to mention.

Not all of the sketches are equally hilarious and occasionally they seem to lose their way. ‘Inner Goddess’ which centres on a yoga retreat, and ‘Attorney’ are perhaps less successful, but hardly to the detriment of the show as a whole. It is just a shame that there are a grand total of four people in the venue for this show, which inevitably makes improvised comedy feel a little pressurised or claustrophobic for the audience. With only a few days of the fringe left, this has to be one of the shows to make it onto the last minute must-see list.

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