FACES didn’t always get JAMES MACNAMARA making the right faces, but it’s worth it for when it did.

Corpus Playrooms Tue 9th – Sat 13th October 9.30pm £6/£5

Dir. Charlotte Quinney

Possibly the best Mitchell and Webb sketch is the one when they’re like: ‘Ok. So running order for the show: Hit, Miss, Hit, Hit, Miss, Miss, Hit, Miss… Hit, Miss, Miss, Hit’ or an order to that effect. This is exactly what the unspoken contract between a sketch show and an audience is, and will always be. There are always lulls in laughter frequency; it’s how a sketch show forms its rhythm, keeping the audience with them and out of real time, real thinking.

This show is close to finding its rhythm. Some of the hits are real glassjaw. But too often three or four sketches went by and I wasn’t exercising the muscles I was hoping to, those indicated in the excellent opening number. Sometimes, yes, the intercostals and the face and the nethers and those in between. But also those of the frown, sometimes of puzzlement, sometimes of ‘wellll I geddit… but something is missing, something is not quite realised here’. Those muscles don’t need excercising. Unlike my abs.

The biggest hits, the ones that made me feel that I was possibly contributing towards a future career as a model for Men’s Health magazine, either involved music, or animation. Two brief animated items: ‘Chalk and Cheese’, and ‘Blind Date’. Both excellent – I’ll leave it to you to work out how they might unfold.

‘Chalk and Cheese’ contains the phrase ‘fuck off’. That’s all I’m saying. And possibly the funniest sketch all night: a middle-class one-upmanship of husbands and holidays, with a delicious twist and closing line, sung beautifully and executed with real skill and calm confidence. The hits are worth rejoicing.

But then, there are the tired routines. Dogs, racial and class stereotypes, oh-I-wasn’t-expecting-that, oh-how-random. There is a flirtation with jagged edges and un-thought-of premises that could blossom into the sort of edgy comedic flowers that we seem to be devouring in collective secret shame:


Too many of these potential offerings, however, are left wilting. Like the asparagus fronds that line the forks of irritating middle class mothers. Etc.

However, many of these misses gained laughs from involved and convincing comic performances. Laura Ayres possesses a wonderfully subtle yet manipulative set of expressive movements, both physical and facial, and she can sing with scalpel-sharp comic timing. Olivia Emden can really do ballet – and lots and lots more besides.

If, like me, you’ve had your hair cut short recently and you’re growing some facial hair, and all you need to complete your Gerard Butler look is a massive six pack, then this show will get you a fraction of the way there. It will, however, get you further towards a group of writers and performers that have a promising collective potential in making sketch shows. Not quite SPARTA inducing, but worth witnessing. And now, back to those ten press-ups. They soon will be mine…