Review: Bafflesmash presents – Back in the Cellar
Absurdity, lunacy, and intelligence: presenting Bafflesmash’s second show
I was unlucky to miss Bafflesmash’s first show, Menagerie. But despite the lack of a comparison, I can safely say that their return to the Pembroke Cellars was triumphant.
A glorious mix of surreal, intelligent and simply hilarious sketches awaited the audience in the intimate space, which they made a point of ridiculing in one particularly fine, fourth-wall smashing skit. From the Trojan war and Mormons to Wallace and Gromit and Jason Derulo, their eclectic subject matter was perfectly aimed.
An exceptionally refined piece on the Wimbledon ‘ball people’ was very well received: “Fred Perry, I choose you!” is a line I wont forget anytime soon. They tested the limits somewhat with a short but well written Nazi sketch; a more topical but equally risky ISIS bit was livened up by the inclusion of Justin Welby and his biscuits.
The first of a pair of Harry Potter pieces fell slightly flat but this was redeemed with the second which, despite being around 20 seconds long, drew one of the biggest laughs of the night. The final sketch, which combined multiple previous stories, was a fitting send off: incredibly clever and thoroughly funny.
Each of the five cast members definitely pulled their weight, delivering diverse and enjoyable performances. I have to give special mention to Tom Fairbairn for his Odysseus the absurd Captain Birdseye, though, whose rural prowess easily matched the cocky superheroes opposite. Rob Oldham was equally impressive, with his condescending Gromit and the bizarre and very green Easter Grinch (sounds weird but was simply fantastic (a quote that sums up the whole show and could be put on their next poster)).
Kudos should go to the director Ellie Warr, too, for creative and involving direction, as well as a truly amazing and farcical sword fight. Lighting design which pushed the Pembroke Cellars to its limits added to the atmosphere and even produced a punchline or two in itself.
The only issue I can take with the show was the venue. A couple of jokes brought attention to the peculiarity of the space but made it hard to ignore: it was mostly well used but somewhat restricted. Sat in the fourth row, I had a very poor line of sight for several of the sketches, occasionally unsure of what exactly was happening.
Overall, this is a hilarious show. With the success of the humour and the performances, I can only hope they can get promoted to an above-ground venue for their next show, an event I eagerly anticipate.
77: a strong first.