EFR - Reviews of Laughing Stock

Laughing Stock

Wed 19th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Llewelyn Hopwood

at 10:10 on 24th Aug 2015

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Being classic yet original and clever yet silly is a winning formula for any comedy, but a formula that requires skill to pull off. This quartet of talented comedic actors is blessed with that skill, and this blessing allows them to ensure constant giggles, frequent laughs and the occasional howl from a silly reviewer who immediately hides behind his notepad in embarrassment. By bookending the production with pumping, popular dance tunes, the audience is energized throughout, and the smiling and waving of the actor Lewis Doherty, who’s sat on stage as one enters, is a precursor for the close actor-audience bond that characterizes this production.

The smile that springs onto your face from the opening gags about Doherty’s broken leg will stay there and will quite probably turn into a roaring laugh by the time the second hit of the newly formed group ‘Snack Pack’ (the marriage of an unassuming folk singer and a god-like rapper called Mini Cheddar and his ‘homeboys’) comes along to close the show. In fact, this particular recurring sketch is so entertaining that the actors themselves may congratulate themselves with the occasional muffled snigger.

Although some of the sketches use worn-out themes – an ex-girlfriend with a restraining order, a crazed long-lost friend, sexual innuendo – the team manages to put an original twist to all of these by incorporating them in clever songs, by poking holes in the fourth wall and by playing on gender expectations in comedy. Other sketches are bright and brimming with originality in themselves. Visual humour written intelligently is what reigns supreme in these, for example the ‘mime-gician’ who manages to turn an invisible flower into an invisible umbrella in front of our very eyes, or the man in a chicken costume (an instant winner in my view) who makes a satirical monologue on the topic of battery farming.

It seems that this group has potential for a radio series as well, for the mock nature documentary with a whimsical David Attenborough that sounds in the darkness in between some sketches provides another springboard for hilarity.

There is the odd scene that could be cut or revised due to ordinary acting or expected conclusions such as that in which Phoebe Higson and Bella Gibbins act unhinged aristocratic women talking about their sexual exploits, however, Laughing Stock is a great sketch show in which there are definitely more hits than there are misses.

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Stasia Carver

at 10:41 on 24th Aug 2015

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Wonderfully observed, impeccably paced and hilariously delivered, Laughing Stock is a riot from start to finish. Fresh out of Oxford School of Drama, each turtleneck-clad member of this gender-balanced quartet is a formidable comic talent; together, they are positively electric.

It’s tricky writing about a show where so much of the pleasure lies in the sheer unexpectedness of each scene: there’s no sketch I’m willing to risk spoiling with too detailed a synopsis. The show is certainly not predictable, moving seamlessly and hilariously from the lecture theatre to the pub, from a meet-the-in-laws horror story to a soliloquy by a battery hen, without ever feeling rushed or disjointed. Spoof David Attenborough-style voiceovers accompany the changeovers; the loose storylines shaped by the recurrence of certain characters make for an impressively tight, coherent show.

As with any good comedy, Laughing Stock’s strength lies in their ability to capitalise on the all too familiar without resorting to cliché. You’ll recognise many of your acquaintances on-stage, a few of whom you’ll soon be wishing out of your life altogether. Some of their sketches are strikingly original; all are fresh, witty, and bloody hilarious. Arguably the show’s greatest strength lies in its musical numbers, beginning with a witty battle between two buskers, and culminating in the show’s finale, the hilariously stereotyped hip-hop group Snack Pack dropping some heavy beats and delivering rhymes that have the entire audience bellowing along.

Laughing Stock isn’t flawless: for me, two women boisterously tossing around sexual innuendos isn’t quite witty enough to justify the amount of stage-time these sketches got; nevertheless, the delivery from the quartet is so consistently superb that it would take a lot for one of their jokes to feel worn-out. I’ve never seen performers so adept at reducing an audience to fits by their facial expressions alone.

Even if you don’t make it to their show this summer, you’ll undoubtedly be seeing this foursome before too long; I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on BBC3 somewhere down the line. Whatever happens, these are four incredibly funny people with some incredibly funny material, and they’ll surely go far. Seriously impressive stuff.

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