EFR - Reviews of Planet Caramel: Wafer Biscuit

Planet Caramel: Wafer Biscuit

Sat 8th – Sat 29th August 2015

reviews

Louis Shankar

at 10:04 on 25th Aug 2015

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To convincingly fit 31 sketches into fifty minutes is a difficult feat. Planet Caramel does so relatively successfully, although I only counted 29. A surreal opening that provided the sole explanation for the title set the ball rolling in an appropriately surreal manner.

What followed was a mixed bag of absurdist sketches, ranging from a mysterious episode of Mastermind to a public service announcement about paedophobes. A personal favourite was a dystopian episode of Friends, made particularly funny by the awful masks used by the case, which had me laughing somewhat uncontrollably (although not everyone found it so funny).

The best sketches tended to be the short ones, those that built quickly to a climactic punchline; a one-liner got one of the biggest laughs of the night. A couple of ideas that were revisited throughout the show became much funnier: a failed bank robbery initially made no sense but crescendoed later on, making it all worthwhile.

As with any sketch show, there were a few duds. A nonsensical bit about the Mayor of Hawaii fell flat; personally, I thought an episode of MTV Cribs presented by a baby about their, wait for it, crib was infantile and went on too long. This was actually a common issue: many of the sketches didn’t build to a punchline, they merely made us laugh then petered out.

All three performers - Alex Harwood, David Blair and Richard Duffy - delivered exceptional performances. Despite occasionally weak material, they all managed to jump between contrasting characters quickly and effectively, demonstrating a range of accents and acting styles, from slapstick to faux-drama.

The overall production was also of a high standard: music was well chosen, props were simple but successful (despite occasionally being ridiculous), sketches flowed together without any difficulty. Most impressively, the awkward space was used very effectively. A small, dark stage became everything from a living room to a secret bunker to, well, a stage; they exploited the space, moving around and giving a high energy performance throughout.

Altogether this is a good sketch show. There is undoubtedly some weak material but this is the case with any such show. It’s simple, enjoyable and ludicrous (probably enjoyed best with a pint). And it’s free, so there’s no reason not to go. In fact, there’s the added incentive of a free Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer bar as you leave: why wouldn’t you go?

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Archie Hill

at 10:10 on 25th Aug 2015

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The comedy trio Planet Caramel’s quirky new sketch show is part of the Free Fringe, currently being performed upstairs at Opium, and is well worth a view for comedy fans in the area with an hour to spare.

The group consists of Alex Harwood, David Blair and Richard Duffy, who write and perform the sketches – 31 in total – and do so with a good-humoured confidence and general affability. Like any sketch show, Biscuit Wafer is something of a hit-and-miss hour of comedy, decidedly uneven in the quality of its material. But there are still plenty of moments of laughter to be had.

With a wide range of different styles of comedy on display, from witty one-liners to recurring gags, it is perhaps difficult to identify an individual feature of Planet Caramel’s writing. Where they work best is with the more surreal parts of their material. These included (without giving away any punch-lines) a twisted Friends parody and a medical examination involving nipples and The Archers: while very different in concept, both are funny and well-executed.

Recurring elements included Graham, a habitually terrible – and apologetic – bank robber, and Richard’s attempts to come up with new sketch ideas, mostly involving Nazis or nuns. These moments of self-awareness were quite cleverly done, acting as a good link from one sketch to the next.

Part of what makes the show enjoyable is its relatively high production values: the music and effects throughout are surprisingly good. One of the final sketches, involving an American president about to launch a nuclear missile, is particularly improved by the soundtrack, adding to the long-build up before the (eventual – and quite funny) payoff.

The music and dancing that begins and ends the show is another bit of silliness that adds to the general character of Planet Caramel’s universe. Free Tunnock’s bars for everyone at the end may have been a gimmick/bribe, but one much appreciated, not least for the continuation of the sugary theme of the title.

Altogether, while Biscuit Wafer may be a mixed bag, something of a work in progress from a group still finding its particular style, it’s nevertheless a mostly enjoyable and successful hour’s comedy. The trio have good chemistry with one another, and their successful sketches mostly make up for the ones that don’t quite get off the ground.

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