This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
The Southampton Jesters are friendly. The Southampton Jesters are enthusiastic. The Southampton Jesters are determined. But, regrettably, the Southampton Jesters are just not that funny, and neither is their sketch show, Uncanned Laughter.
There is no theme to this sketch show; it is simply a series of skits stitched together into a 50-minute whole. This is not a drawback in itself – often no overarching theme can allow a sketch troupe to fully express their creativity – but in this case, The Southampton Jesters are left wholly rudderless. Their comedy flits from topic to random topic and, as few of their sketches truly amuse, it seems as if they are desperately searching for laughs, rather than artfully crafting them.
Some sketches show genuine promise, as they are founded on witty, intelligent ideas. One featuring each cast member playing a different chess piece, and thus only being able to move in straight lines, or diagonally across the stage, or by one step at a time. Another, in which the audience make up one half of a giant game of Guess Who, has the marks of a genuinely original concept, but was unfortunately cut short far too long before the audience had time to really appreciate it.
Too often, interesting ideas such as these are ruined by unskilled writing. Promising concepts fail to follow engaging trajectories, and instead resort to lazy, unsubtle plot devices – the voice of God randomly appearing mid-scene being a classic example. Conversely, hackneyed sketch ideas are awkwardly drawn out; a lengthy sports report (featuring two shouting, macho presenters) is a particularly unimaginative conclusion to the show.
The seven performers (Aidan Pittman, Andy Sugden, Holly Pierce, Joe Buckingham, Matt McGarvie, Lydia Harrison, Will Cook) are rarely engaging. Pittman at least displays a modicum of charisma, gamely remaining enthusiastic throughout, and Buckingham is laudably physical at times, but for the most part, the acting is stilted and slow, and there is never any observable chemistry between characters.
The Southampton Jesters clearly enjoy performing, and that is undoubtedly a prerequisite for a sketch show, but it frequently seems as if they are oblivious to all but those on stage. It is enormously sad that such a well-meaning sketch troupe is incapable of delivering an enjoyable production.