EFR - Reviews of Mixed Doubles

Mixed Doubles

Thu 1st – Sun 25th August 2013

reviews

Mona Damian

at 08:57 on 19th Aug 2013

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This production’s individual sketch scenes cover an eclectic set of subject matter, with the spotlight shining on pushy-parenting, the confrontation between Batman’s nemesis and the force of law, and anything and everything in between. The tennis itself is kept to a bare minimum and certainly ought not to be given centre stage.

The cast of Will Close, Megan Smith, Paul Aitchison and Rose Robinson play to great effect on the dynamism of the group, so that every new scene is given fresh flair by the ever-changing roles and relationships. The sheer variety of facial expressions and contortions was impressive and the incredible range of accents offered by each cast member certainly heightened the audience’s enjoyment.

The material is certainly fun and engaging. Particularly the opening sketch, which leaps into a surreally modern conversation, forcing the audience to think hard about how social we become by embracing social networking and all their linguistic paraphernalia. In addition to this perhaps more classic satirical take on our modern world there is a lot of fresh and inventive dialogue material that can’t help but hook an audience’s attention. However, it is a shame that several jokes and sketch ideas seem to be re-used and recycled throughout the production’s duration, to the extent of overkill. The sheer originality of ideas for some of the scenes is a testimony to the production’s imagination, and this is really something that should have been pushed further, rather than employing the re-iteration of an albeit original initial concept. In a similar vein, several of the longer sketches would have benefitted from being shortened a little, instead of running on past the central joke’s punch-line.

A nice touch is provided by Aitchison’s guitar interludes. The occasionally longer solo might have worked better rather than the spattering of isolated chords here and there– indeed, at points the sheer brevity of such scenes ran the danger of making the overall production a lot more sketchy than necessary. Nevertheless these were a slick way to offer light relief between more intense scenes of lengthy dialogue.

‘Mixed Doubles’ is a production that would gain much from simply leaning just a little more on its greatest strength: the originality of the content. It is great to see a production that can make so much of common aspects of our daily lives, and to such hilarious effect; simply a little more of this, instead of the continuous reiteration of the same jokes, would place the ball in the right court.

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Joshua Phillips

at 15:32 on 19th Aug 2013

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‘Mixed Doubles’ is, curiously enough, not about tennis. Nor is it about badminton. As a matter of fact, it is not about any racquet-based sport whatsoever. ‘Mixed Doubles’ is, in fact, a rather slick quick-fire sketch show with a cast of four: two male and two female. Hence the name. And there, the link to tennis pretty much ends. You could perhaps say that the speed at which the quartet exchange banter resembles a rally of sorts, but this is pretty tenuous at best. Tennis does appear, in the form of a set of sketches involving a morose Andy Murray. These sketches all tend to riff around the same basic joke: Murray being, well, Murray. None of them are that bad; one of them is really very funny. But they are all the same sketch at root. And this is where 'Mixed Doubles' falls down.

With each sketch lasting somewhere between thirty seconds and a minute, there must be around a hundred shorts in the hour that the quartet, Will Close, Megan Smith, Paul Aitchinson and Rose Robinson are on stage for. The shortest is two lines long. And, really, there’s no way that the production can be consistently funny; to have an hour’s worth of micro-sketches that are of the same high standard is a difficult task, and the team behind ‘Mixed Doubles’ show this.

To the credit of Close, Smith, Aitchinson and Robinson, some of the sketches are genuinely very funny. One such of these, a little number involving a camp Sweeney Todd more concerned with making his customers look fabulous than taste fabulous, shows the subversive potential of the genre, taking the Sondheim musical and flipping it on its head in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea. But these sketches are few and far between, like little glittering diamonds in a mine.

‘Mixed Doubles’ shows the limits of what a sketch show can accomplish, but it also shows the limits of what a reviewer can do. Were I to discuss the numerous sketches that could have been oh-so-good, but were dragged on past their natural ends, this would be a very different review. Likewise, were I to talk about the tiny, gem-like musical numbers, this piece would not be the same. ‘Mixed Doubles’ seems to be a grab-bag of very different shows, one that pushes at the limits of the sketch-show format almost to breaking point.

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