Review: Channel 4 Squared

A sketch show flying by the seam of its trousers, but managing to stick the landing

Reviewing a sketch show is always slightly tricky, though Channel 4 Squared upped the ante just a tad in making it feel like I was Hamm in Toy Story 2 flicking through every single channel at breakneck speed to find what’s on.

In a chaotic and cobbled-together manner, the show touched on every aspect of television from light entertainment to big-budget drama to our very unbiased and impartial news, the show was able to make the most of a strong set of funny ideas, even if it felt like they were building the road as they were driving down it at times.

Even despite the variety of each sketch, the show was able to stay fairly grounded in its theme of a consistent (if whacky) television channel. From parodies of Doctor Who to late-night Gogglebox, almost all aspects of typical British telly were covered excellently. The only thing that ever seems to hold back these sketches from reaching their absolute peaks is the odd occasion where it feels like the cast is not as comfortable as they could be.

Beyond the odd mistake which can happen in any show, it often felt like the actors needed a bit more time to truly perfect each sketch, as whilst it was clear they understood the roles they were playing in each one, it was as if they knew that they could have had more time to truly nail each joke home, and the show had the capacity to reach even greater heights than it did.

Wombat Man (Christian Longstaff) fighting off the deadly Mr E (Helen Brookes) [Image Credits: Jenny Cyffin-Jones]

Performances, even when underprepared, were however very strong, with each member of the cast feeling incredibly confident in their roles even when some sketches felt a little more half-baked than others.

Christian Longstaff‘s unwavering commitment to impartiality as Peter Balance was only rivalled by his passion for all things toast as Terry Tucker in an excellent parody of  Hell’s Kitchen and Masterchef. Will Boyce showed the true horrors faced on the day-to-day by rubber ducks, and in a brilliant parody of the Antiques Roadshow, he highlighted the true impact on something even being tangibly associated with Noel Edmonds.

Helen Brookes excelled as the foil to Longstaff’s Wombat Man as Mr E, and the satanic fitness instructor, proving clearly why P.E. teachers should never be trusted under any circumstances. Maddy Sanderson as the sleazy news journalist reviewing GCSE results, and the peak ’70s Who assistant to Dan Mills’ Doctor was a truly brilliant pairing.

The quality of acting and the excellent concepts seen, however, were slightly undercut by some touch-and-go tech moments. The frequent use of projection really assisted the show, allowing for fun opportunities to riff on the incredibly awkward special effects of Dr Who, and to play out the real horrors of rubber duck violence.

But the odd flashing up of the projection cues throughout the run, whilst funny, did take you out of the moment on occasion. The general atmosphere and strength of the acting all around made up for any dodgy tech elements, or the odd breaking of character, creating a show which was still able to hold itself together on the strength of its parts.

Channel 4 Squared was a very good time. You could tell that both the audience and the entire company were having a brilliant time. Whilst certain sketches felt like they were coming together almost as the cast were saying their lines, it was clear that the show was filled with some strong talent and excellent ideas. It will be brilliant to see future sketches from every member of the cast, though hopefully, they’ll be able to find a little more prep time outside of exam term to make each punchline even punchier!


Channel 4 Squared was shown on the 2nd of May at 11:00 pm in the ADC Theatre.

Feature Image Credits: Jenny Cyffin-Jones

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