Tommy and Tris (Brasenose Arts Week)

Mon 7th – Sat 12th May 2012


Ryan Sarsfield

at 10:08 on 8th May 2012



It may not be polished, but Tommy and Tris (and incidentally Chloe and Peter as well) will maintain a constant chuckle, rising regularly to tear-inducing laughter, for a full 45 minutes.

Granted they fall into the Oxford-student-sketch-comedy trap of making the odd throw-away joke about not stepping on the grass and doing sketches about Shakespeare, but considering this is a College Arts’ Week show, they cannot be blamed for pandering to what they know their audience will identify with. The delivery also at times feels a little dated – a little too Monty Python-esque – with the odd silly voice and comic hat. In one sense the duo seem to be directly invoking this kind of sketch comedy, especially considering that they pay homage to Old Brasenosian Michael Palin’s ‘Dead Parrot’ sketch in the last part of the show. Yet, this is far from all the duo have to offer and it does also help that this Oxford-centric material is also very passably funny. It is a testament to the pair’s writing ability that they manage to create innovative material out of subjects which, I thought, were in danger of having run their course. The ‘entire history of man inadvertently told within a lecture’ sketch, for example, is hilarious and illustrates the group’s deftness with physical comedy as well as clever wordplay.

What makes Tommy and Tris particularly promising is that, in other respects, they do manage to break this well-worn paradigm with amble material that proves to be both original and extremely funny. The ‘Bus Stop’ sketch is one of the few with a real punch line and it’s a cracker which had me rolling in my chair. Most of the sketches don’t reach this comic climax; rather, Tommy and Tris manage to perform scenes which contain enough revelation and jokes to sustain themselves without the need for great crescendos – the driving lesson sketch, or the virgin sacrifice sketch, for example. This is one of the great strengths of the show – the audience isn’t waiting for a laugh, it’s already laughing.

The show is, admittedly, rough and ready. The pair fall victim to the odd instance of corpsing, but they manage to pull it off in a way which rather suits the show’s aesthetic. The pair slip in and out of character into their own personas between sketches, and manage (probably intentionally) awkward scene changes with ab libing and a self-awareness that easily wins over the audience. Even when they decide to get ‘meta’ Tommy and Tris manage to force the comic over appearing obvious and contrived, by maintaining an intimacy with the audience which feels spontaneous – no mean feat.

Tommy and Tris are performing in Brasenose College on Thursday (5pm) and Saturday (5.30pm). If you want 45 minutes of guaranteed laughs then I urge you to go.


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