SPLEEN: A New Sketch Show
PATRICK BROOKS is left with split sides by a night of scintillating comedy.
Corpus Playroom, Tue 22nd – Sat 26th, 9:30pm, £6/5.
SPLEEN is a comforting show, somehow. Despite the cannibalistic surrealism, often dark premises and an emphasis on the paranoid or possessed, I felt warm and in safe hands throughout the intimate hour of comedy in the Corpus Playroom. The tiny venue, difficult for sketch shows due to its confrontational quality, was ably overcome by the five comedians, and resulted in the audience being able to far more easily connect with the humour and palpably feel the camaraderie and joyous sense that emanated from the group. This was basically just friends fucking around, and it was all the better for it.
They were having a lot of fun (though there was a professional absence of corpsing), and so were we. In fact I’d say one of the main hindrances to my enjoyment of a few sketches was that I couldn’t hear what was being said over the uproarious belly-laughs from the people next to me, and if that’s not praising with light damns then I don’t know what is.
I don’t want to give any of the sketches away. They’re funny, pretty much all of them. Take my word for it. Slight restructuring might have made some of the wackier early sketches play better, as the audience wasn’t quite warmed up enough, but I can’t think of any sketches that simply fell flat or, the cardinal sin of sketch comedy, overstayed their welcome. They were fast, sharp, simple and not full of wanky pretentiousness, relying on the characters and acting to get consistent laughs from scenes that would probably be unremarkable on paper. The sequence of sketches that broke the fourth wall and referenced the sketch show itself were kept short and didn’t take things too far, just adding enough to create a brilliant finale and thematic cohesion.
Although all five performers were excellent, Tom Fraser and Seb Sutcliffe stood out for me as people I would be incredibly unsurprised to see on my television screen in a few years time. Everything Seb Sutcliffe says and does is funny, and his Van Gogh oddly poignant too. But Tom Fraser steals the show. Although he bemoans at one point that all he gets to do is play maniacal or deranged characters, he plays them so goddamn well it’s no wonder he’s typecast. He breathes demented new life into the tired paranoid professor/doctor archetype, and his stunning, seemingly improvised and exponentially stakes-raising rendition of Happy Birthday (in a way you’ve never seen it before) is the rapturous highlight of the show.
Basically, these guys are great, unpretentious and funny, simple as that. Go see them.