Shelf

Tue 11th – Sat 29th August 2015

reviews

Becky Wilson

at 10:49 on 24th Aug 2015

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Shelf is the brainchild of North London duo Ruby Clyde and Rachel Watkeys Dowie. This stand-up sketch show hybrid, which plays largely upon the friction of their personalities, is consistently clever and energetic.

Ruby’s role is that of a talented, albeit mildly narcissistic musician who believes she is dragged down by her musically-helpless counterpart, while Rachel is an unapologetically loud clown. It is refreshing to see the two women co-operate so successfully as an off-the-wall duo, considering popular culture’s tendency to pit women against each other as enemies. The two bounce off each other marvellously as they amicably compete for the audience’s attention through snarky remarks and deadpan, knowing looks.

Ruby and Rachel have stumbled upon a winning hybrid of sketch show and stand up, which is wholeheartedly British in its self-deprecation and delightfully warm in its delivery. It is received extremely well by the audience- so well, in fact, that the comediennes themselves seem surprised – particularly considering the modest set up. It’s a rather cramped venue with no stage, and the meagre props consist of an e-cigarette taped to Rachel’s arm and some kitchen roll.

The sketches themselves are smart, current and often surprising, keeping the audience on their toes. From a tongue-in-cheek focus on cyber bullying to a philosophising debate between a posh man and the man trying to mug him.

This comedy is definitely for young people. The language is often quite crude, and certain sketches depend upon the audience being technologically aware. Most notably, the pair sing a song with the lyrics to ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk, a hilariously incoherent jumble that has been placed through Google Translate a few times. Similarly, there’s a highly emotional scene when Rachel admits to her Nokia Brick that she’s cheating on it with an iPhone 6.

There is nothing hit-and-miss about Shelf. It is almost impossible to flaw these women for their comedic creativity and consistently high levels of energy. We’re warmly invited into the pair’s dysfunctional friendship through deadpan one-liners, audience interaction and wholly original ideas. For these reasons, it is most definitely worth a watch.

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Josie Finlay

at 11:45 on 24th Aug 2015

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I really want to be friends with Rachel and Ruby, the two young South Londoners that make up sketch comedy double act Shelf. Their material is consistently funny, but I feel like it isn’t even fully necessary – the chemistry between the two is so fantastic that I think I could spend hours watching them discuss what they had for breakfast and still have fun.

Rachel and Ruby are obviously aware of this unique rapport, and use it as a foundation for their self-referential comedy. Many of their sketches open with a an anecdote about how the two met, ranging from the mundane to the absurd – ‘On the train from Margate to Folkestone!’ ‘At a crime scene!’ ‘At MIME SCHOOL!’ – before they confess to their audience that these have been elaborate lies, apologise profusely and explain the reason for their dishonesty, which I won’t give away because it wraps up the whole show perfectly and I think everyone should go and find out for themselves. You find yourself shunning logic and believing each ridiculous anecdote just because it’s so much fun to speculate on how this beautiful relationship first began to blossom.

The pair is always refreshing to watch and are clearly having a great time, sometimes cackling with the audience over the brilliance of their own jokes, and at occasionally enunciating their own punch lines just to hammer them home. Such self-satisfaction is endearing – while Rachel and Ruby are constantly laughing at themselves, there’s no pretence at self-deprecation, which makes you like them even more. I’d be pretty pleased with myself if I had come up with such brilliant moments as ‘the voice clarinet’ and the antidote to ‘cool modern internet bullying’.

Their repertoire isn’t perfectly polished – there are occasional moments when the momentum runs out or jokes are carried on just that tiny bit beyond their sweet spot. But for me, this doesn’t mar the performance at all. Despite their (amazing) line ‘I can’t pretend to be someone I am any more!’ the pair are great at being themselves – their humour is low-maintenance and natural, and doesn’t need the constant thrust of a joke to propel it.

Watching Shelf is the only time I can remember having actively wanted to be picked for audience participation, which is surely a sign of how sparky and genuinely likeable Rachel and Ruby are. Unfortunately I wasn’t one of the chosen few, but I’ll definitely be seeing Shelf again, so there’s always hope.

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