Review: After Dark Sketch Show
Will Amott is in two minds about the latest Footnotes sketch show.
There was a lot of potential here and there were several moments that made me think how much bigger budgets benefit comedies. Set, props, costumes, et al: they usually help. That would certainly be true in this case.
The fact I start by mentioning this lack of budget is not supposed to infer some insult upon the performers (“they needed a painted background to sell the joke”) but a compliment. They were good, and good performers can sell jokes without all the bells and whistles.
However, some of the sophisticated ideas on display here are very hard to sell without bells and whistles. Abstract sketches such as Plisty Middle Age, where jargon and colloquialisms that that older folk are befuddled by was pushed to the extreme, and Happiness Robbery, where a bank hold-up descended into an attack on someone’s literal well-being, needed a sprinkle to make them sparkle.
Part of the reason it perhaps didn’t fulfil its potential is because it was unsure of where it was headed. I do not think comedies should nail their flags to the mast and only stick to one style of humour (that would be dull) but the sketches here veered between very straight and very bizarre, but were not always played with enough conviction in either. I think the show could have benefited from really embracing the weirdness, or sticking to the Miranda-style silliness.
The ugliest sketch was probably the Long Word Phobia one. It’s not a complicated concept. It’s a one-liner, really. The “rah” stuff added another (superficial) comedic layer, but there was nowhere near enough depth to sustain the humour for the length of time the actors were on-stage.
My favourite sketch of the evening was probably Vampire, one that began with the Scooby Doo soundtrack and descended into something I am not sure I could really describe. It felt very Mighty Boosh in style, was unselfconsciously bizarre and was the one time I felt everyone felt committed to being weird-funny.
This is the sort of show that could have benefited from some extra flourishes, as I have mentioned, but at heart was courageous and innovative. I look forward to seeing more Birmingham Footnotes shows in the future.
After Dark Sketch Show, as performed by the Birmingham Footnotes society, debuted Wednesday 5th February and ran till Friday 7th February in the Amos Room.