OLIVER JAMES is impressed by this witty and fast-paced sketch show.
ADC Theatre, 11pm, Wed 30th October – Sat 2nd November, £6/5
I must say that after having read the Tab interview with the cast of CowsDrinkMilk before actually seeing them perform, I was already at odds with the troupe. Slating both Little Britain and Catherine Tate for being ‘too stock character‘, I was apprehensive to see how a sketch show could break free of this alleged vice while truly engaging the audience in such short scenarios. The difficulty of juggling so many short and sharp scenes, coupled with minimal costuming and props, made the versatility of the actors extremely clear. Nisha Emich and Kay Dent are both standout performers in the production – their ability to capture the audience with their piquant-yet-relaxed performance style was unsurpassed.
For a performance that lasts just over an hour, I was genuinely impressed by the breadth of scenarios and sketches covered. In that respect, the show was very much a success as the writers keep the audience guessing with scenes ranging from the mundane but witty real estate agent’s tour of a home, to being held as captives by a wild Amazonian tribe. Such proved an effective technique to keep the audience interested while slyly dropping a few running jokes into the largely unlinked sketches.
It was undeniable that the fairly packed audience were in stitches for most of the production. Sound and lighting, much like the props and costumes, were kept to a minimum, although that’s not to say they were ineffective. If anything, I found they were tactfully used to compliment the performers without being overbearing or becoming a crutch to lean on. Wit is one thing the writers have mastered, and the quality of acting made this realised on stage.
The writers’ attempt to move away from the notion of ‘stock characters‘ is clearly visible but I question their approach for a production that is so fast-paced. Catchphrases and tropes would be inappropriate for a fleeting show such as this as the writers couldn’t have enough time in the hour to build up the familiarity needed, and would probably be selling themselves short of their obvious talent. That being said, the sketches that I found myself chatting about on the way home were those that utilised recognisable characters that provided the audience with an already loaded understanding of the character to build on. Think fast talking, upbeat real estate agent, or cruel Victorian scrooge. Both of these characters evoked a preconception but allowed the writers enough flexibility to make them their own. With such little time, props and costuming, there is only so much acting can add to a blandly written character. However, the writers hit the nail on the head with some of the sketches, such as that which was biblically inspired, which really lent itself to the writer’s skill for parody.
The ever light-hearted CowsDrinkMilk proved a fantastic late-night show with a full range of humour. From the morbidly dark to the cheeky innuendos, the production provides a fast-paced stream of laughs that keeps you guessing.