Izzy Cutts heads to the Bloomsbury Theatre to see UCLU Comedy Club tackle the mad world of TV and film
This term the Gower Line sketch group have been busy reinventing many of our favourite TV shows. Although this wasn’t the first UCLU comedy club production I had seen, it was an improvement on the last performance I went to. UCLU comedy is getting funnier every year, and though the night wasn’t quite side-splitting, it was filled with very credible, witty and surprising moments.
This was, however, the first time I’d seen Comedy Club in the Bloomsbury. I’m not sure whether the space really suited them and it could definitely have been utilised more, but the cast did well not to be swallowed up by such a large stage. I think the show would have worked better in a more intimate space, as the lack of special effects or technology made the stage feel quite empty. In fact, the one use of a followspot was a disaster, and the music was barely audible at times. Having said that, they obviously needed more people in the audience to boost the atmosphere, and I really think it was a shame that there was such a low turnout.
The sketches were harnessed together under the loose pretence of people watching TV. The theme gave scope for a variety of ideas and helped to control the fast-paced madness of the first act. It was made up of many short parodies of popular TV shows, including my personal highlights ‘Desperate Housewives of Tunbridge Wells’, ‘Jeremy Kyle and the Philosophers Stone’, which included Hagrid’s infamous line “you’re a daytime TV presenter, Jeremy!” and everyone’s favourite curse “expecto-pay-child-support-us”, and a history programme mobbed by vigilantes accompanied by a grinding Russell Brand.
The main problem I had was that the content was inconsistently humorous. Obviously, comedy is something that is very difficult to get right, and not everyone is going to laugh at everything, but there were parts that worked really well and parts that didn’t. For example, a voiceover was used effectively to announce the TV shows and to whack in some quick jokes – I loved it when they just dropped in loads of Game of Thrones spoilers – but many of these moments were met with complete silence.
There also needed to be a more careful balance of cheesiness, as it was the darker, more unusual sketches that got a better reaction. ‘At home with the Satans’ was by far the best received sketch, and the stars Liv Marshall and Finlay Green – who also brilliantly killed everyone off with his love of jugs on Antiques Roadshow – particularly stood out. I found it quite strange that the two people sat on the balcony, who were meant to be watching the TV that these parodies played out on, were never included in any of the sketches, and their running joke featuring a ghost fell quite flat.
By the end of the first act I wanted a longer, more developed sketch after the fast flick-through approach we’d had so far. With the opening of the second act my prayers were answered with a ‘film’. Not a direct parody, but a thriller, featuring a bike mechanic/private investigator Allen Key, and played by Leo Middleton. The opening was dramatic, capturing and hilarious, and Middleton’s performance demonstrated impeccable comedic timing and some great writing.
I think the reason I was so surprised and impressed with this production was because of the comparison to previous shows I’ve seen. There was definitely lots that could be improved. For a start, a lot more content was needed because the interval was nearly longer than the first half. The first act felt very chaotic at times and even the cast seemed bemused by what was going to happen next.
There were many moments where cast members seemed confused or embarrassed by what they were doing which made for quite uncomfortable viewing. Additionally, some of the sketches, like ‘The Great British Sex Education Off’, felt quite simple and overdone. However, I really appreciated the levels of energy and the cast definitely made an impact on their small crowd, and looked like they were having fun too. I really hope this is a sign of things to come from the society.