EFR - Reviews of Bulletproof Jest: Sketch Comedy Show

Bulletproof Jest: Sketch Comedy Show

Mon 5th – Sat 17th August 2013

reviews

Flo Layer

at 09:29 on 10th Aug 2013

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From the very first, this show was an explosion of excitable energy, bouncing off the walls at an incredibly fast pace as weird after wonderful short comic sketch was performed onstage. In the age of YouTube, where everyone can find their 3 minute comedy fix, 'The Dead Secrets' group claim to ‘remind us of the power of the sketch show’. If silly and sometimes absurd comedy is not your thing, then the panache with which it is delivered by the incredibly versatile cast is commendable alone.

As a small group of only five actors, 'The Dead Secrets' certainly showed off their adaptability and smooth comic timing to great effect; within only fifty minutes the unassuming audience were subjected to sketch after sketch ranging from a re-imagination of a crucial moment in the Restoration of the monarchy, to the tense atmosphere of the Women’s Institute cake-baking competition, and even the battle of sperm to reach the egg. Each different character was easily distinguishable thanks to well-thought-out costume changes and seamless alterations of accents. Yes, it was all a little OTT – a sort of performance with bells on, a cherry on top and an extra sprinkle of glitter just for good measure, but it is nonetheless well sustained and produced hooting laughter from the audience.

The writing in this show is certainly witty and original, seamlessly parodying a dizzying list of different film and literary references. The solo bitter tirade of the cynical ‘St Pancras Bear’, old friend of Paddington, whose profession is a “procurement specialist in urban pockets” was performed without restraint by Jen Sugden to the sound of infectious laughter in the audience. Meanwhile, the Literary Wife Swap set up between the caricatured Darcy (Bill Moulford) and Miss Bennett (Ida Personn) of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and the disgruntled Heathcliff (Phillip Cotterill) and Cathy (Sugden) of ‘Wuthering Heights’, had to be one of the highlights of the show. If there was supposed to be cleverly woven links between sketches, then this passed me by, but the witty intelligence of the script was certainly discernible.

At times the jokes did feel a little over-exposed; too much repetition in the film extracts and within certain sketches fell short of their comic potential. If it had not been for the reliably infectious cackle of an enthusiastic member of the audience on the front row, I’m not sure whether I would have been laughing in these slightly less convincing moments. Nevertheless, this is a refreshingly funny and absurd show that will leave you bouncing out of the venue with a smile and aching cheeks.

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Theodora Hawlin

at 09:32 on 10th Aug 2013

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'Bulletproof Jest' opens with a scene of over excited sperm, an excitement that infects the remainder of the show. With ‘flagella flying everywhere’, a flying vicar squad and catty cake contests we’re thrown into the world of 'The Dead Secrets'; ever so surreal, but ever so great. It’s a refreshing change to see a sketch show in which an audience has breathing space to familiarise themselves with characters and develop a true reaction to the story they tell. Real characters and narratives are created in a remarkably short space of time, stories that you want to revisit, and happily you do.

But although the idea of long sketches may have you dreading a drag this show refuses to be slow. Switching between mediums, between solo acts to a highly impressive ensemble dance, 'The Dead Secrets' reek of life and all its ridiculously quirky accompaniments. Each cast member smoothly transforms from one set of facial hair to the next. Ida Personn shines as a politician (wig), inventor (moustache), cake maker, yet she won me from the start with her overzealous sperm, Charlotte, as did her comrades.

Stories of all shapes and sizes appear side by side. From the wonderfully disgruntled figure of Pancras bear (Jen Sugden)—the neglected partner of Paddington who was not so fortunate in his choice of station, unable to secure a lucrative book deal— to the gleefully tongue in cheek ‘Literary Partners Swap’ in which Bill Mouldford’s brooding Mr. Darcy and Philip Cotterill’s impassioned Heathcliff swap wives. The docile Darcy's life is spun recklessly out of place before the audience as the hysterical Catherine in full pining glory drives Darcy to acts of despair.

The entire production is cleverly interspersed with a number of videos allowing sketches to be extended and enjoyed beyond the stage. In particular, an artfully timed trailer for a Higgs Boson blockbuster follows a glimpse into the caffeinated world of the movie business, enabling the full cycle of the film’s creation to be creatively conveyed. The freedom of the medium transforms sketches, allowing us to revisit the revelations of the military misspend on ‘Space Geese’ through a recruitment video for ‘The Space Geese Squadron’. Alternatively, video acts as a cunning device to remove sketches from the stage entirely, as in Chris Sudgen’s various milk drenched adventures.

What is perhaps most gratifying about this show is the strength of its performers: every character is compelling, every gesture, every face, pitched to perfection. These jesters are going places, they won’t be secret for much longer. I am amazed to learn that this is 'The Dead Secrets’ first show in Edinburgh; I am certain it will not be their last.

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