REVIEW: Pearly Gates

It’s time to be judged…

ADC Cambridge cambridge students Cambridge University Comedy Corpus Playroom review Tab the tab Theatre

This show really highlighted the best side of student-written comedy, with fresh, well executed sketches that had the audience in stitches.

It’s unusual to find a cast quite as well matched as that of Pearly Gates: each of the five performers brought something unique to the show, but they gelled so well as a cast, and flipped so effortlessly between sketches as a seamless unit, that it was like watching five parts of an – admittedly very odd – whole.

Rare photographic evidence of the Pearly Gates

The overarching plot was also an interesting, and successful, addition, as many sketch shows struggle to link their individual sketches but Pearly Gates’ divine judgement narrative, complete with a comically inept St. Peter (Comrie Saville-Ferguson), did not feel strained or artificial but really added to the humour of the piece as a whole. Saville-Ferguson had the audience laughing from the opening scene with his welcome to the Pearly Gates, which managed to be both sardonic and hilariously overenthusiastic. When, at his gesture, the lights came up to the sound of heavenly trumpets, the let-down was all the more funny: as Ellie Cole’s cantankerous old Irishwoman commented, “is it just me or is this really rather anti-climatic?” This balance between irony and deadpan humour was maintained throughout the show, and the audience loved it.

A clear strength of all the performers was their character acting – from the hilarious, and very cleverly written, Freud family dinner, to the supermarket sketch featuring a decidedly philosophical infant (Dan Allum-Gruselle), each scene drew upon the skilful performances of character that these actors excel at. I also can’t possibly forget the superb accents that repeatedly added to already very funny sketches. Leo Reich’s brilliant Spanish caricature, Andres, had the whole audience laughing as soon as he opened his mouth (and I still want his tips on how to turn women’s legs to jellyfish).

Timing was also crucial to the show’s humour, with moments like when the young Freud (Comrie Saville-Ferguson) dropped a banana peel and ‘slipped’ made brilliantly funny as a split second of deadpan silence allowed the audience to realise the pun. The pauses in the ‘Mr Satan’ scene also made the audience laugh, as Ellie Cole’s slightly perturbed businesswoman tried unsuccessfully to interrupt Mr Satan (Francesca Bertoletti) as he emptied his heart into a song, and Satan: The Musical continued to pop up in other sketches, much to the audience’s delight. Indeed, the continuity of these plotlines between the sketches made the comedy all the more successful, particularly in the case of the yes/no rubber sketch, a very funny satire on the  judiciary system that resurfaced after a few sketches in a short that made the original sketch even funnier in hindsight.

Photo Credit: Emma Plowright

Another highlight was the Abraham and Isaac sketch, which featured some moments of excellent physical comedy as Dan Allum-Gruselle, the tired and frustrated Abraham, reacted to his chair being reclined as the precocious Isaac (Comrie Saville-Ferguson) pressed every button in the car. The Nazi sketch was also excellent purely for the line “just because Hitler was proud to be British”, so brilliantly delivered by Leo Reich, and the ridiculous and hugely entertaining desert island sketch was both cleverly written and excellently performed.

If there were moments that were slightly unpolished, they only added to the humorous breaking of the fourth wall that accompanied several of the sketches. The final piece of audience interaction was hilarious, and showcased the ability of all of these actors to adapt and improvise according to the situation. The moments of almost accidental comedy were nearly as impressive as the cleverly scripted humour, and the hard work of the cast and crew was evident in the ability to create such effortlessly funny scenarios. I hope to see many more sketch shows from this group of talented comedians.