Uncanned Laughter

Sat 8th – Sat 29th August 2015

reviews

Rowena Henley

at 00:56 on 14th Aug 2015

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Uncanned Laughter is a comedy sketch show brought to the Fringe by the Southampton Jesters and it gave us the classic compilation of silly situations and random absurdities. Sadly, I found the show to be more sketchy than comedic, however, with some dodgy jokes and even dodgier scene changes.

The Jesters opened with a scene about different parts of the human anatomy. It was a promising start: bodily functions, what’s funnier than that? However, the artless attempt to find a word rhyming with ‘appendix’ meant the group shoehorned in a strange and gratuitous mention of Jimi Hendrix. The unsubtlety of this was a sign of things to come.

Sketch comedy shows rely on the correct variety of scene lengths and a strong sense of inventiveness. However, in this particularly show, the former was in short supply and the latter was taken to unchartered and unamusing territories.

Each scene was too long, seriously overstaying its welcome and losing touch with the audience. A sketch about sliced bread, for example, could have been cut by at least two or three minutes, sparing us the weird and humourless conversation with ‘God’ that followed.

In terms of inventiveness, I will give the Southampton Jesters credit for turning normal situations on their head. However, this technique stands as the basis of all sketch comedy, so cannot really be seen as high praise. For the most part, however, the Jesters inventiveness was simply childish nonsense (and not in a good way). I could definitely see what the group were aiming for in certain scenes (such as one about ludicrous extreme sports) and there was certainly potential for them to become entertaining. However, the group’s fundamental lack of understanding about humorous content and comic timing meant every scene fell completely flat.

Some scenes definitely could have potential for future fringes if given a little work. One scene centred on an audience-wide game of Guess Who was an incredibly intelligent concept, but wasn’t given the development and execution it deserved.

Professionalism was one of this show’s key downfalls. The scene changes were truly painful to watch, as each performer did a kind of awkward jig to transform from one character to the next and the backstage antics were clearly visible because of a curtain left half open. The repeated corpsing of one performer also meant the show dropped in quality, as he showed a lack of ability to disengage himself from his friends sitting in the front row.

Uncanned Laughter felt a lot more like a school talent show than a Fringe performance. The whole piece needs a reinvention before it can become the show it is admirably striving to be.

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Fergus Morgan

at 01:38 on 14th Aug 2015

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The Southampton Jesters are friendly. The Southampton Jesters are enthusiastic. The Southampton Jesters are determined. But, regrettably, the Southampton Jesters are just not that funny, and neither is their sketch show, Uncanned Laughter.

There is no theme to this sketch show; it is simply a series of skits stitched together into a 50-minute whole. This is not a drawback in itself – often no overarching theme can allow a sketch troupe to fully express their creativity – but in this case, The Southampton Jesters are left wholly rudderless. Their comedy flits from topic to random topic and, as few of their sketches truly amuse, it seems as if they are desperately searching for laughs, rather than artfully crafting them.

Some sketches show genuine promise, as they are founded on witty, intelligent ideas. One featuring each cast member playing a different chess piece, and thus only being able to move in straight lines, or diagonally across the stage, or by one step at a time. Another, in which the audience make up one half of a giant game of Guess Who, has the marks of a genuinely original concept, but was unfortunately cut short far too long before the audience had time to really appreciate it.

Too often, interesting ideas such as these are ruined by unskilled writing. Promising concepts fail to follow engaging trajectories, and instead resort to lazy, unsubtle plot devices – the voice of God randomly appearing mid-scene being a classic example. Conversely, hackneyed sketch ideas are awkwardly drawn out; a lengthy sports report (featuring two shouting, macho presenters) is a particularly unimaginative conclusion to the show.

The seven performers (Aidan Pittman, Andy Sugden, Holly Pierce, Joe Buckingham, Matt McGarvie, Lydia Harrison, Will Cook) are rarely engaging. Pittman at least displays a modicum of charisma, gamely remaining enthusiastic throughout, and Buckingham is laudably physical at times, but for the most part, the acting is stilted and slow, and there is never any observable chemistry between characters.

The Southampton Jesters clearly enjoy performing, and that is undoubtedly a prerequisite for a sketch show, but it frequently seems as if they are oblivious to all but those on stage. It is enormously sad that such a well-meaning sketch troupe is incapable of delivering an enjoyable production.

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