EFR - Reviews of Colin Hoult/Anna Mann: A Sketch Show for Depressives

Colin Hoult/Anna Mann: A Sketch Show for Depressives

Wed 3rd – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Jessica Cripps

at 12:32 on 15th Aug 2016

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Supported by two muscular male dancers in leotards, Colin Hoult’s failing actress persona Anna Mann seeks to kick some funny into the subject of depression once and for all. Can she cure it? Probably not, but this half improvised, half sketch show will definitely put some glitz into trying.

'A Sketch Show for Depressives' is actually a surprisingly chirpy watch. Colin Hoult’s script manages to use the concept of taking inspiration from a therapy group without being offensive to those with mental illness.

Anna Mann claims that she herself has been depressed, and presents depression in a light-hearted, ‘one of those things’ way. As a result of presenting it like something we will all have to deal with at some point, the jokes at the expense of the quirks of depression became an inclusive, relatable bonding experience, rather than isolating those with a mental illness.

All in good spirits, Anna’s sketches are predominantly silly, but often touch on something that rings with realistic truth. Her singing dog sketch is hilarious, despite being nothing more than just mimicking sounds of a yowling dog. The audience erupt into giggles, but when the noises are ‘translated’ it turns out to be a poetic message about enjoying life. Her punchlines are on point, delivered with the perfect timing to receive the biggest laugh.

While Anna Mann’s deliberately sketchy sketches demonstrate the same sarcastic, slightly stereotypical humour you might expect to find at a drag show comedy, it is her improvisation that makes the night a golden one. At one point, a man crosses the stage to go to the toilet, which Anna takes as a cue to hilariously rebuff him for the following three minutes until he returns. It is these improvisations that really make the show individual, and, delightfully, no two performances will ever be exactly the same.

Overall, it is like watching an outrageous auntie frolic on stage and flirt with two hunky backing dancers. Dirty jokes are aplenty, the dancing is charmingly camp, and spirits run high for the whole show. Despite the silly jokes at the expense of many audience members, you get the impression that Anna really cares about giving her spectators a good time. A good time was definitely had by all.

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Kate Nicholson

at 20:58 on 15th Aug 2016

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Feeling rather hungover and broken inside, Colin Hoult’s ‘Sketchshow for Depressives’ appeals to me before I even enter the venue. Dressed in drag, Hoult portrays a pretentious but winning woman, Anna, who is pretending to put on a sketch show to help the depressed. Complex, isn’t it? Yet interesting, a satirising of even meta-theatre that is absurd, undeniably original and hysterical from the offset.

His persona, Anna, is depicted perfectly, appealing simply because it is drag that is not overplayed. His tongue-in-cheek character has the traditional bright blue eye shadow, but that is as pretty much it. She is a well developed character with a huge backstory that makes her hilarious but believable. This is not just a one off either; Hoult’s abilities to imitate are perfectly displayed in sketch after sketch.

Yet, audience interaction is easily Hoult’s strength. Nicknaming and gently bullying from the moment he takes to the stage, he turns any mediocre answer to his direct questions into a joke, proving himself to be a naturally gifted comic. However, the concept of his performance is quite cutting edge (and therefore simultaneously offensive) and at one point, a joke does not go down well with a couple of members of the audience; Hoult manipulates the event into a cause for even greater hilarity. He is a true performer.

I hate to say it, but due to the excellence of his improvisation, it is difficult to keep up with the chronology of his original script. Busy giggling about his spontaneous mockery of the front row, I occasionally have to cast my mind back to try and remember just why Anna Mann is running around pretending to be a male snob. Yet, Hoult’s most original feature is the addition of his two helpers. Opening his script up by providing more individuals to mock, he keeps the piece dynamic and ambitious. By having other bodies on stage, Hoult uses this chance to change the audience’s focus every so often; he is able to keep it fresh and stop them from getting bored of looking at the same man and his eyeshadow for a whole hour.

A five-star performance even without the assistance of a particularly quirky and gregarious audience, Hoult’s sketch show is lively, engaging and thoroughly entertaining in the most unexpected way. A little of everything – self-deprecation, puns, a cheeky bit of sexual referencing– whatever your humour, Hoult’s show has it. And in case the fact that he cured my hangover makes me biased in Hoult's favour, the standing ovation he receives proves his humour is applicable for, and appealing to, all.

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