UCL Graters: Smashing

Thu 3rd – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

Amaris Proctor

at 11:59 on 22nd Aug 2017

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While there are a multitude of enjoyable goofs in this sketch show, there is something quintessentially studenty about its haphazard vibe. It’s easy to imagine where many of the gags were conceived; in front of some good day time telly and around a pub table.

At its best, this show serves up pithy comedic morsels ladened with unpredictability. There is something extremely palatable about the immediate gratification provided by the rapid-fire pace of the snappy bits and laconic writing. It extracts much of its humour from cutting past daily civility, laying bare the hilariously inappropriate impulses foaming just beneath. Moreover, if you’re a fan of word play, this is the right production for you. It is heaped with puns, which have the capacity to leave you in stitches or cringing depending on your tastes. It’s brimming with endearingly silly lines like “I’ll return to the country I love and the woman I grew up in’’.

However, it is not a performance without its fair share of flaws. The jokes are hit and miss, and there are some sadly uninspired stints. Some of the political sketches feel a little outdated. The rapid pulse of comedy on social media means jokes comparing Corbyn to Stormzy had been done to death by July. The influx of memes mocking the Conservative’s favourite catchphrase ‘strong and stable’ had already come and gone, and sketch show’s material on Jimmy Savile is painfully old hat.

This is exacerbated by the fact that, while the three cast members are clearly dedicated to their performances, their zealousness, not to mention volume, seems at times overdone. While actors with more maturity tend to have an unspoken command of the stage, the performances paraded here seem fuelled by a nervous energy.

This unfortunately piles onto the slapdash elements of the piece. A peppering of technical errors, including unfortunate issues with sound, aggravates the shambolic complexion of the sketches. It’s difficult to judge whether the horde of random props, which includes everything from a pineapple to a dildo, is worth the comedic value it brings in the form of visual gags. Including such a swarm of items is quite possibly an amateurish move that weighs down the lighthearted creation.

Ultimately, stronger creative direction would have sharpened the rough edges of this lackadaisical piece. However, potentially part of the attraction is the show’s untidy and unripened vitality.

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Adele Cooke

at 12:25 on 22nd Aug 2017

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UCL’s Graters return to the fringe this year with their show ‘Smashing’- a sketch show with improvised comedy. Ranging from heavy political content to Batman to tennis, this show exhibits a mere subsect of the creative imaginations of the group. The performance comprises of a series of sketches, some stand alone and some creating cyclical patterns, as skits repeatedly return to a doctor’s office and Gotham City throughout. These scenes also adopted many different bases, including political humour, jokes and slapstick. This provided diversity and intrigue, creating a fast pace which the audience appeared to enjoy.

There were sections of this show I found genuinely amusing, including a fake news story documenting the death of the Conservative Party’s magic money tree. These scenes were all enthusiastically performed with high energy levels. However, other sketches felt dated, including references to Jimmy Saville, Theresa May repeating her “strong and stable” mantra or the general election. These were still funny, but would have been more laugh-out-loud comedic a couple of months ago. There were also a couple of sketches that didn’t suit my personal taste, for example the ensemble’s attempts at improv or a bizarre section on the theme of gravy granules. However, this is to be expected with sketch shows, as it’s unusual for every scene to match each person’s sense of humour. I did enjoy a song from the perspective of Theresa May at the close of the performance, where she sung about Arlene Foster and Donald Trump, with the vocals of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. This was comical and surprisingly tuneful, providing a welcome break from the short and sweet sketches that had precluded it.

In terms of production, set was kept to a minimum, with a couple of mics and boxes of props scattered around the stage. Most scenes featured a prop or two, relying on the audience’s pragmatic understanding to carry the humour. Scene changes were also kept simple- usually with the cast walking onto and off stage to signal the transitions. This was effective, if a little repetitive. However, the cast could have diversified their performance by breaking this routine, which by the end of the hour appeared grating. Overall, at times this show was funny, at others a little dated. I wouldn’t say this show was “smashing”, but it wasn’t dire either. However, the intimate audience seemed to enjoy the performance, and I’ll admit, I did too.

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