REVIEW: Babushka

All hits, no misses: the litany of wit that was Babushka.

Comedy Hadyn Jenkins Mark Bittlestone Pembroke New Cellars sketch comedy Theatre

Gather round, everyone. Not you, Naan Bread. Babushka was hot fire. Smoking hot fiya’.

It was so hot it should be wrapped in five layers of flame retardant bubble-wrap, plastered in ‘proceed with caution stickers’, tossed into James Cameron’s submarine spaceship, and cast into the icy blackness of the Mariana Trench for fear of scorching the socks off any other comedy sketch show unwise enough to mess with it.

DISCLAIMER: Do not view this if you are 5’3” or under. This is some top-shelf shit.


The poster, featuring MVP Mark Bittlestone, Hadyn Jenkins and Declan Amphlett. (Image Credit: Hadyn Jenkins)

If the currency and metric of comedy shows is the laugh per minute (LPM), the LPM was a straight 10 on this count, my readerly friend. Some of the fallout from the sketches lasted longer than the sketches themselves: one about a middle-aged father had a running time of about 15 seconds, and a laugh-response of a good 30.

The highlights reel contained a sketch about the perils of playing table football, culminating in a characteristically clever and confidently executed twist; one which fathomed the unfathomable origins of the QWERTY keyboard; a sketch about what RSPB actually stands for; and a sketch about the peer pressure that surrounds Anti-Bullying Wristbands –  and when this absolute gem of a premise was delivered, half the audience dissolved into anticipatory giggles.

But the trio were unflappable (not unslappable, slapstick be praised), instinctively adjusting their comic timing to incorporate the frequent laughter of the audience into the structure of the sketches. The standout bit transformed the Pembroke Fellows into the Pembroke Fellads, relaying tales of extra-unPG-13 rated raunchy debauchery. There was even a sketch about improv sketches. It got meta. It got better. And then, just in case there was a single audience member that remained unconvinced, it got even better.

In rehearsal – Mark Bittlestone and Declan Amphlett. (Photo Credit: Joseph Spencer)

In rehearsal – Mark Bittlestone and Declan Amphlett. (Photo Credit: Joseph Spencer)

The actors came together like that rare piece of Ikea flat-packed furniture which comes with all the nails you need, and two extra just for keepsies. Haydn Jenkins, Declan Amphlett, and resident MVP Mark Bittlestone created 23 successive sketches, the cumulative effect of which was as life-affirming as the snapchat story of a certain DJ Khaled (#blessup). Babushka has nothing to do with Russian dolls, or Russias of any kind. Any pre-show doubts that we might have been bored and waiting for ‘Donetsk sketch’ [reader cackles in delighted amusement and munches on bagel contentedly] were waylaid by the wayside. For Babushka was on the crayside. It was on the slayside. All the competition better motherfucking prayside.

Straight fire. Straight five.

5/5 stars