Bafflesmash presents: Menagerie

WILL POPPLEWELL is impressed by a sketch show that lives up to its potential

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Bafflesmash is an original sketch show that kept me entertained and let me wanting more, despite some teething problems.

It was neither particularly slick nor polished, and the changeover between sketches lacked the swing present in more experienced comedy groups.

That said, the smoothness did improve throughout the night; the few waits and audibly stubbed toes didn’t compromise my enjoyment of show.

Bafflesmash delivered a genuinely enjoyable evening and ticked all of the boxes of a good sketch show, with a few interesting takes on standard comedy repertoire; the humour was well balanced, something often lacking in Cambridge sketch shows.

At times the sketches were almost too surreal, but the cast’s easy manner drew me into the absurd premise of several sketches without any awkwardness, the opening sketch especially putting the audience at ease.

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There were many strong moments – of special note were the masterfully irreverent ‘Jesus’ sketch and the wittingly ideological ‘Pilots’, both of which showed the audience an original take on fairly common sketch show material.

I also very much enjoyed their answer to the age-long question of why the French eat frogs… Intrigued?

In general the quality of the sketches was high, and whilst I couldn’t highlight any outstandingly hilarious moments, the laughter was frequent and genuine and there weren’t any lulls in the amusement.

Within a strong cast, particular highlights were Eleanor Colville and Jamie Armitage; despite Colville appearing the least on stage, she impressed nonetheless, even with the fewest ‘evidently funny’ lines; perhaps most striking was the comedy of her reactions and unscripted engagement with the scenes she appeared in.

Armitage provided the most diverse range of roles, continually amusing the audience with well-pitched gags and a good comedic manner.

Rob Oldham deserves a mention for some of the wittiest one-liners, although unfortunately a few were lost to the self-depreciating tone of his comedy, which left a few lines unheard.

Tom Fairbairn and Orlando Gibbs rounded off the strong cast; I enjoyed Fairbairn’s engaging manner and Gibbs’strong physicality, all five of whom elicited individual laughs from the audience.

The show took advantage of the slightly less formal setting of the Pembroke New Cellars to encourage audience to bring alcohol, something that many gladly and enthusiastically heeded.

The show certainly doesn’t need the alcohol to make it funny, but a few glasses of wine always add a giggle or two.

Unlike some productions I’ve seen it was not hampered by what could be considered a trickier venue, managing to achieve the same atmosphere as an ADC or Corpus lateshow.

Overall, Bafflesmash is fun and well-paced, and delivered a thoroughly good evening’s entertainment.