Fringe Comedy Reviews: Sketchy Characters

Goose bring Kablamo! to Edinburgh, while zazU: A Fête Worse Than Death and The Free Association also star in this round-up of sketch comedy at the Fringe

Feature by John Stansfield | 17 Aug 2015

The art of sketch comedy has been deconstructed and reconstructed so many times that there was barely anything left. Last year, though, there was an upswing in the credibility of sketch with Gein’s Family Giftshop and Lazy Susan both scooping up nominations for Best Newcomer at the Foster’s Awards. Gein’s protégés/stable mates Goose are back again with a one-man interpretation of the subsection of the comedy listings: Kablamo [★★★★☆]. Fast paced, tightly written and technically brilliant, watching Goose is like watching a child play all the roles in a film, which they're making up as they go along. Except the child is extremely bright, kind of vulgar and very, very sweaty. Adam Drake plays out the Bond-esque misadventure with awkward glee, bouncing around the stage like Bugs Bunny playing baseball. A rare talent you should see as soon as you can; just trust us and steer clear of the ‘splash zone’ of the front row.

Almost the polar opposite of Goose’s lightning quick brand of sketch is the prim and proper four piece zazU in A Fête Worse Than Death [★★★☆☆]. Telling the story of the inhabitants of a town called zazU – a quaint village in the South somewhere in which music is illegal, feet are the most sexually enticing part of the human anatomy and people intermittently replace words with ‘oo’ (mother becomes moo, goodbye become goodboo). It’s all very well acted and written but the sweet setting doesn’t have enough of a dark underbelly, and though each sketch is funny, they are all part of a larger narrative and as such there are very few big pay-offs in between set-ups. The ending is inventive enough to bring the whole show together nicely but it could have done with a bit more bite throughout.

Improvisational comedy sits uncomfortably within the sketch group construct. Making up their skits on the spot from audience suggestions, its practitioners grab laughs by being quick-witted rather than the months of painstaking workshopping that goes into writing and performing sketch comedy. Improv group The Free Association [★★★☆☆] are an Anglo-American hybrid whose members from across the pond have a much tighter grasp on the sketch craft and help move them along much easier. The gimmick here is that they have a comedian as a guest to do a little bit of stand-up at the opening of the show and they base their performances on that. On this occasion Aisling Bea guests and elevates the entire performance through her natural charm and quick wit. On another evening, without a comedian of her calibre, the group may struggle to keep the stories fresh.

Goose: Kablamo, Assembly George Square Theatre, until 30 Aug, 3:20pm, £9-10

ZazU: A Fete Worse Than Death, Pleasance Courtyard, until 31 Aug (not 19), £7.50-10

The Free Association, Pleasance Courtyard, run ended