Miles Kekwick is impressed with a ‘premier league’ show
A history faculty loo was not the place I expected my first encounter with Diphthong to be, but as I was relieving myself there when the four cast members were staring back at me.
Given that this was a hotly-anticipated show, it probably wasn’t necessary for the publicity guy to paste posters on every single cubicle door and above every sink, ya know – save the trees and all that.
Toilet humour aside, Diphthong was a funny, impressive and intelligent show. It’s USP is that the cast are divided into two pairs. Footlights double-act Mark Bittlestone’s and Haydn Jenkins’ more orthodox comedy is married with Luisa Callander’s and Ruby Keane’s capital-e Edgy style.
Immediately the strength and experience of the cast was clear, with a loud and confident start getting the audience warmed up.Labouring under the Footlights name can be a blessing and a curse. It either gives you a platform for other students to enjoy your talent, or you are perceived as trading fraudulently on the reputations of alumni.
This was not the case here. Smooth and relaxed, Mark and Haydn opened with a great James Bond sketch, mixing great acting with verbal comedy. Their radio sketch was also sublime. Mark Bittlestone captured the smarmy drawl of the typical trashy Home Counties drivetime-show host to perfection, and Haydn kept everyone laughing with what may be the first funny BBC-paedo joke this year.
Managing to combine humour drier than the Sahara with superb situational comedy, Ruby and Luisa were an equally funny pair. Luisa Callender ’s terrific Scottish twang made for some especially hilarious deadpan deliveries, and Ruby’s intensity had echoes of Miranda Hart. I will probably never forget their morbid burlesque parody.
Overall, Haydn Jenkins was probably the strongest of the cast. From seeing him waiting immobile for an entire scene and then nailing his one line at the very end, to his Blofeld parody which had the whole house laughing, his natural talent is clear. Remember the name, you could be hearing it a lot in the future.
Naturally, there were some glitches. Ruby and Luisa’s accents in their first sketch did tend to bleed into later ones. Ed Miliband’s voice was eerily similar to the schoolboys in the earlier Chicken Sketch.The aeroplane sketch was also up and down, whilst the theatre staff sketch fell flat for those in the audience whose blood type is not A(DC)-positive.
But as expected with this premier-league cast, major flaws were non-existent. Indeed, at no point did I miss a punchline due to poor sound (a cardinal sin for comedy), and the lighting was also flawless.
Sandwiched between longer sketches, the speed-dating cameos kept the pace of the show high, with the cast’s rapid-fire wit distilling all your bad date experiences into 5 funny minutes. Diphthong’s break-up make-up storyline threaded it all together so neatly that History supervisors would drool at such excellent structuring. Many Smokers can feel like a random buffet of bits and bobs. Diphthong, however, is very much a three-course set menu – and the better for it. Here, credit must go to director Sam Knights.
Go and see it today or tomorrow at 11pm and laugh in the face of week five, your sleep postponed, their banter honed.