Alice Baker braved the chaos of Edinburgh fringe to support UCL’s very own fringe successes. UCL send a huge amount of productions up to the Edinburgh fringe ever year from a variety of societies and to rave reviews. Here Alice shares her thoughts on some of this year’s comedy and drama.
UCLU Comedy Club: This Slate is Intentionally Left Blank
The basement of a Chiquito’s is not the most exciting venue but the Comedy Club’s improv group, pictured above, had so much energy that they had no problem holding the audience’s attention from the distractions of a busy restaurant.
Energy is no good without substance and the group has this a-plenty! All the performers are skilled improvisers who have mastered the difficult art of not being thrown by mistakes. Slips of the tongue were worked to comedic effect: “it’s all gone long” became a series of scenes about giant ferrets. For this mini-play a special mention has to go to Joe Bohoslawec whose interaction with the audience and comedic timing were spot on, and also to Tim Frith for flawlessly maintaining a stutter. The inclusion of a longer piece was a stroke of genius, bookended by improvisation games, it helped to slow the pace of a slightly frantic hour.
Not letting things drag on is crucial in comedy. However, the group need to watch out for high energy turning into a chaotic mess; towards the end of the show it felt like they were rushing to complete games and didn’t allow time for the humour to develop. This is a very talented group and if they stop worrying about getting through everything on their set list then they will easily match some of the professional improv on offer at the Fringe.
UCLU Comedy Club: Gower Rangers
Across town, the Gower Rangers were also talking about including animals in their sketch show, which covered everything from zombies to debating. The hour was well set out; sketches felt the right length and returning to one particular scenario (a prison English class) lent a feeling of cohesion.
The comedy was on point; the ‘Best One Liner at the Fringe’ award went to a joke about a vacuum but it really should have been handed to Tom Fenton for the umbrella-selling boast “You can be sure that if any lady isn’t wet, it’s because of me.” Everyone likes self-aware humour and referencing the show’s low budget in the pirate scene was a great touch.
Unfortunately, some punch lines were lost, largely because of a lack of projection in combination with accents. Although to be fair to the performers, this wasn’t helped by the group of merry Glaswegians who were enjoying the show very loudly (and well done for not getting distracted). Speaking of accents, relying too heavily on stereotypes without bringing new observations to the table can fall a little flat. However, once the kinks have been ironed out, the surreal-tinged humour of these performers is sure to be a crowd-pleasing hit.
UCLU Drama Society: Duchess of Malfi
Like everyone who covered the play at school, if anything, I’m overfamiliar with Webster’s study in immorality. This production made me feel the dread of ill omens, the chilling realization of Ferdinand’s insanity and the divided conscience of Bosola afresh, which is testament to the skill of the team behind it. In particular, the set design was a stroke of inspiration. Whilst the Comedy Club’s offerings worked in spite of their surroundings, Malfi worked because of them. A severe space restriction made the audience feel as claustrophobic as 16th century Italy was for the widowed Duchess and the smell of incense lingered over proceedings as a constant reminder of the Cardinal’s influence.
The lack of big scenery or props left the focus on the actor, and there was a lot of talent to be seen. The Duchess, Daisy Fordham, in particular was superb, carrying off her moving final speech and difficult on-stage death flawlessly. Her chemistry with Antonio, Matt Wedlich, was tangible and the perfect example of how every stage of this production, from casting to execution (both literal and figurative) was done to the highest standard.
Featured Image Credit: Kendall Hellend