Wed 5th – Mon 31st August 2015


Poppy McLean

at 15:59 on 22nd Aug 2015



Anyone who strolled into BEASTS’ new sketch show anticipating yet another group of keen young things offering up painstakingly crafted pieces to a benevolent crowd was forced immediately – and somewhat violently – to re-evaluate. Live DVD, ostensibly the trio’s big push for fame across the pond via a DVD recording of the show, is a roaring, sweaty ride through the catastrophic disintegration of this very venture. With terrifyingly invasive audience participation, exuberant nudity and moments of quite stomach-churning grossness, this show is so in your face it’s up your nose.

The show’s comedic variety was wonderful; adverts, songs, brilliantly wacky props and even political-parody-parody provided material for its sketches. However, it soon became clear that the group wasn’t going to rely on these for the show’s real comedy: this was found in the constant and vigorous interaction between the three members of the group.

Owen Roberts was the straight man (except perhaps in the Gay Pirates Sketch), desperately trying to organise the all-important camera and becoming increasingly manic as his dreams began traveling through the drain in a predictably downwards direction. James McNicholas was fabulously geeky, eyes wide and bottom lip quivering in moments of especial panic (essentially, the entire duration of the show). But it must be said that the star of the show was the indomitable (and, I’ll admit, occasionally terrifying) Ciarán Dowd. Dowd was the wildfire blazing about the bottom of Roberts’ ladder to Hollywood fame, and it was a horrifying joy to watch him become more and more of a liability, as he commandeered roles and plunged the sketches into chaos on a whim. The show ended in a stunning explosion of silliness, as the theatrical fantasies of each member of the trio were combined in a spirited musical number which left every spectator with a smile on their face.

The show was not perfect, of course: inevitably, some sketches felt less effective than others (speaking personally, one slightly repetitive piece about a French kung fu artist springs to mind, as well as a not entirely original joke concerning the last supper) and not even the comedians’ most energetic efforts to plunge the audience into yet more wonderful chaos after such moments could completely dismiss the slight feeling of disappointment that accompanied them.

Disappointment, however, is unlikely to feature in how the vast majority of audience members will recall this glorious bombsite of a show. Suffice it to say that, in Live DVD, Roberts, McNicholas and Dowd have managed to create something quite magnificently insane, in both senses of the word.


Fergus Morgan

at 20:21 on 22nd Aug 2015



Comedy sketch troupe Beasts’ new show, Live DVD, is not really a sketch show; it’s a sketch show gone wrong. The Beasts (Owen Roberts, James McNicholas and Ciarán Dowd) are attempting to film their best ever show, in the hope of impressing some bigshot Hollywood producer enough to cast them in his remake of Moby Dick. Sadly, straight-man Roberts is unable to contain the enthusiasm of his fellow performers – the unsophisticated Dowd and the frantic, bespectacled McNicholas – and all hell breaks loose, with utterly hilarious consequences.

As Roberts desperately tries to keep their sketch show on the rails, frequently insisting that they return to the start to get it just right, Dowd is more concerned with himself and a hopeless McNicholas humbly does his best, but just can’t get it right. It is in this chaos that the show’s comedy lies. The riotous atmosphere, coupled with frequent and forceful bouts of audience interaction, is enough to have anyone rolling in the aisles. Dowd’s obsession with introducing the audience to his new character, The Naked Baker, is a particularly amusing, especially when The Naked Baker finally takes to the stage, bare as the day he was born, save for a adroitly placed bap.

And the scenes themselves, when Roberts can finally coerce Dowd and McNicholas into acting, are equally amusing. An advert for bread, a reimagination of The Last Supper, and a sketch involving gay pirates – all are brilliantly conceived, with the perfect combination of absurdity and wit. The last, featuring a lengthy parody of Pirates of the Caribbean duels, is simple and childish, but performed with such joyous gusto as to be side-splittingly funny.

All three performers deserve credit for their perseverance and commitment. Dowd, a great bear of a man, has a shade of David Brent about him during the more sober moments, as he frequently makes pedantic asides to the audience. But there is nothing of Brent’s awkwardness here, only a booming voice and an infectious, bawdy charm. McNicholas is loveable, in a dorky, clumsy sort of way and Roberts’ frustration with both him and Dowd is hilarious, and a little too believable at times.

This is comedy that flies on energy and confidence. It is physical, obvious and frequently crude, but it is often witty and always well-delivered. True, Beasts’ relentless vitality can sporadically touch on irritating, but for the vast majority of the show, the audience are caught up in the maelstrom of jokes and mishaps.


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