Leeds Tealights

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2011

reviews

Ryan Sarsfield

at 09:47 on 7th Aug 2011

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Whilst you’ll be hard pressed to find an animal with a job in the ‘Leeds Tealights: Animals with Jobs’, you’ll certainly not find it hard to find laughs by the bag full. With their 2011 Fringe show the Tealights don’t try to be radical nor do they attempt to push any boundaries. What they do do is provide the audience with an hour of consistently funny sketch comedy.

The Tealights exuded enthusiasm, which was matched by the response of the packed house – if you want a light-hearted afternoon of escapism you won’t be disappointed. The self-written comic songs in between sketches are a brilliant innovation and help to maintain the high energy feel of the show and avoid any awkward transitions. This high energy also helped to gloss over the few stumbles in lines and the point at which Jack Barry unintentionally spat out a set of false teeth, far from ruining the sketch, in fact enhanced its comic effect. Indeed, whilst the few instances of corpsing would normally lead to accusations of unprofessionalism, the sheer charisma of all five members of the Tealights pulls them through. After all, this is sketch comedy and imprecisions often only help to add layers of hilarity, in this case to genuinely funny pieces of writing.

The Tealights bring their sketches to life: the facial expressions of both Jack Barry and Patrick Turpin are genius. Those of Patrick Turpin in the final sketch are truly inspired and provide a perfect counterpoint to Pete Starr’s hyperbolically serious speech. With four men and one woman the Tealights’s line-up may seem a little imbalanced; however, this isn’t noticed in the sketches. Lone woman, and President, Annie McGrath doesn’t just act as an object on which to urinate (which actually does happen) she’s also pretty good at acting, notably in the lascivious actress sketch. The Tealights’s subject matters are wide ranging – from playing on the clichés and emotional contrivance of American teen dramas (90210, One Tree Hill, et al), to exploring social faux pas, the group always impress. Oh yes, and I don’t know what 2012 Olympic hopeful, Tom Daley has done wrong, but he’s the butt of some fantastically written sketches which run through the whole show – maybe Ed Smith (a.k.a. Tom Daley) just enjoys diving in spit.

The Leeds Tealights are one of the Fringe’s treats and definitely provide some of the best sketch comedy on offer. Unusual for a sketch comedy show, ‘Animals with Jobs’ doesn’t feel as if a few witty sketches have been padded out with more mediocre stuff. Their material is consistently of a high and funny quality; you can’t really ask for more.

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May Anderson

at 13:12 on 7th Aug 2011

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This year’s Leeds Tealights show ‘Animals with Jobs’ is a distinctly silly affair. If you’re looking for high concept and scrupulously thought out comedy look elsewhere. That’s not to say that the Tealights brand of comedy isn’t intelligent or professional, it’s just that each sketch comes with such a solid dose of ridiculousness it’s easy to get carried away by the sheer whimsy of the thing. But many of the sketches are ingenious. A piece about saving the film industry begins a particularly funny hypothesis about the potential of a mash-up between the films of Samuel L Jackson and Alfred Hitchcock. Aiming squarely below high-brow, the Tealights are unpretentious and accessible – a hilarious sketch involving a bizarrely intimate Popeye relies heavy upon the physical comedy that group seem to have mastered.

Tightly performed, apart from the odd spot of corpsing but when the jokes are this good we can easily forgive them, and impeccably acted the Tealights manage to hit the mark with every sketch. Annie McGrath is particularly good at getting the timing of every punch line just right and the audience seems at her mercy with every line she speaks. One of my only quibbles is the sheer efficiency with which every joke is fired at the audiences. The sketches seem designed to guarantee maximum laughter in minimal time and whilst this manages to keep the audience almost permanently in stitches I would have liked to see the Tealights allow a little more time for jokes to develop. Sometimes quantity overwhelmed quality in this fast-paced show.

Witty and whimsical the Tealights surely deserve their reputation as one of the best student sketch groups around. The sketches were never repetitive or strung-out and they managed to seamlessly move from abusing ‘national treasure’ Tom Daly to a very left of centre exploration of the possibilities of historical re-enactment. ‘Animals with Jobs’ doesn’t seem to have any consistent unifying theme, nor any relevance to its title, but that is perfectly satisfactory when the sketches are united by being this funny.

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