Breaking Down

This new sketch show leaves LOUIS SHANKAR distinctly unimpressed and unfulfilled

breaking down Cambridge Comedy Corpus Playroom

Breaking Down is billed as “a brand-hot-out-of-the-spanking-new-oven sketch show, brimming with absurdity and verbal jousting”.

It’s clearly new, there are a lot of sketches and it’s definitely a show.

‘Brimming with absurdity’ might be pushing it too far, though. Absurdism was often replaced with the confusing and plain weird. And if shouting and funny accents count as ‘verbal jousting’ then there was some of that as well.

It wasn’t terrible. There were some carefully considered sketches with clever references and gently nuanced performances from the cast. There was a delicate venture into Hollister that was very well received by the audience.

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Two three-part sketches managed to build and challenge expectations, creating proper roars of laughter and a spattering of applause. A surprise entry by Grandpa Gandalf really make me chuckle – especially a well-judged Eagles pun – although it was missing a solid conclusion.

That was the biggest problem: the pacing was often off. Jokes went on too long and lacked a punchline, or we were wanting much more from a clever scenario but were just left empty handed. Ideas came out of nowhere then disappeared, replaced by a new sketch, before they could be processed or enjoyed.

And there was a lot of toilet humour – including the consumption of a (presumably) fake stool – and too many childish clichés. In a fourth wall-breaking sketch, they even seemed to be aware of ‘too many poo jokes’. Although they did also feel the need to remind us that there were no refunds.

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And the largest laugh, unfortunately, came by accident when one of the performers managed to rip their trousers. This even managed to have two of the performers on the edge of laughter, stunting an otherwise funny sketch.

There was one major positive. This will come across very much as a backhanded compliment, which it is. But Breaking Down could be much better if you were to go along and shut your eyes for the duration. The reason being that they have lots of audio gags as infill for set changes and many of these work very well.

In fact, the entire show seems as if it’s written for radio. Some of the best sketches, with their reliance on pre-recorded sounds and exaggerated accents, might not even seem out of place on the constantly-referenced Radio 4.

This show needs quite a bit of work. A glimpse of genuinely hilarious ideas did occasionally show through the otherwise funny-but-not-that-funny jokes.

We’ll have to wait and see (or just listen).