REVIEW: Quinoa II: No Pain No Grain

Technical difficulties unfortunately handicap a talented cast, says Carine Valarche.

Cambridge Carine Valarche Comedy Pembroke New Cellars pembroke players performance Quinoa 2 Quinoa II Quinoa II: No Pain No Grain review Reviews sketch comedy Sketches Theatre University of Cambridge

Having seen the original Quinoa in Michaelmas, which went down very well, I had high expectations of what this sextet could achieve.

And I wasn’t the only one: a packed house for opening night only made it clearer that this is a much-loved bunch – and for good reason. When sketches worked, the audience members were in stitches; but the train wreck of missed technical cues and one mishap after another made it hard to watch. A show that obviously had great potential suffered under the sledgehammer of unintended awkward endings, sadly indicative of the show’s general lack of polish.


Patrick Wilson. (Photo Credit: Rob Eager @ Paper Butterfly Productions)

The show started well with a great video intro sequence (despite a few projection issues earlier) – and I was already egging myself not to make a fool of myself by laughing too hard (too late). Clever sketches reigned in the first half of the show, particularly politicised ones: there were fantastic skits on deluxe tampons; the world post-Donald Trump takes over; Cameron takes Miliband; ISIS. New material was the name of the game (except a visual of Bruce Forsyth at the end). A particular shout out to Elliott Wright for his hilarious David Bowie impersonation which never failed to lift spirits, and to new girl on the block Elinor Lipman, who was a great addition to the cast.

(Photo Credit: Rob Eager @ Paper Butterfly Productions)

Elliott Wright. (Photo Credit: Rob Eager @ Paper Butterfly Productions)

But ‘No Pain No Grain’ proved, fatally, to be too apt a description for the show: to get to the good stuff, audience members had to sit through performers locating props on stage, more projector issues (switching it on, finding the right presentation), lighting coming on too early or coming off too late (or coming off too early), and intermittent music which came on and off abruptly.

Undeniably, the cast is made up of well-accomplished actors who didn’t let the technical struggle affect their performances too much. That said, some members were very self-aware of tech cues and lines being forgotten which didn’t always create the jovial atmosphere needed for a show like this. It was a shame, but the sketches’ transitions needed to be more cohesive to feel more effortless and less laboured.

(Photo Credit: Rob Eager @ Paper Butterfly Productions)

Evie Butcher. (Photo Credit: Rob Eager @ Paper Butterfly Productions)

In all, I would describe this as a crash and burn relative to Quinoa II‘s potential: the cast is brilliant, but never has the value of a good technical team been more apparent to me than when watching this production.

I imagine these issues will all be sorted out though for the next few nights of performances, so fans of comedy and of this group should make the journey down to Pembroke Players this week for a hilarious array of sketches.

3 out of 5 stars