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Tue 19th – Sat 23rd November 2013

reviews

Nick Williams

at 10:39 on 21st Nov 2013

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The Buttless Chaps have returned with a whoop, bang, rattle, and extortionate quantities of merriment. Their delightful new sketch show offers something for everyone. Whether you prefer teetering terrifyingly towards (but, fortunately, never quite over) the tipping point of tastelessness with a nice slavery musical, or concentrating on crippling satire crushing capitalist criminality. There is wit, absurdity, tension, and, above all else, tremendous writing at the heart of it all. The Chaps balance their scenes extremely well, varying their comedic line of attack so you can almost never anticipate what is coming next … except of course when it comes neo-Nazism, but that’s an altogether more daring story for an altogether more daring review to tell.

If truth be told a couple of scenes did not quite carry through on their potential (including perhaps the ipad), beautifully setting up moments of tension only for it to gradually dissipate in the slowly dripping tap of nervous titter rather than pour forth a gushing torrent of laughter. Naturally the latter is not what you hope for from every sketch but perhaps slightly tighter timing and particularly some more definite marking of scene endings (whether of the long awkward fade-out variety or the snap change) might have helped them along the way. But this is to quibble with trivialities so here are the headlines: fantastic original material, very well executed by a highly talented troupe who blend together sumptuously on stage like the seductively citric sensations of a summer soufflé.

Phoebe Hames is charming. Words like ‘bubbly’ and ‘personality’ are crass and so this reviewer will avoid them, but he will go so far as saying that Hames stood out as a terrifically energetic and versatile member of the company; switching from loveable, bouncy child to one of the lads down the pub to awkward but disinterested lover faster than you can say buttless. Barney Fishwick is commanding, imperious, lethally funny. Any man who can avoid corpsing (i.e. breaking down into fits of paroxysmal amusement) during an urbane spoken word rendition of an anthropomorphised cartoon theme song has my instant respect. And discipline was a theme, Will Hislop was the butt of many jokes during the evening but kept his focus throughout and delivered some of the subtlest off-hand lines. Kieran Ahern is a force. Whether you agree that he is ‘like a big beautiful swan’ or will forever see him as a secretive, recorder-playing creep with decidedly questionable political leanings, his natural energy, poise, and charm will captivate everyone, from the surly and stoic to the nervous and neurotic. Ahern and the whole company including the wonderful jazz accompaniments of Jack Martin will enthral, engage, and entertain for one hour of your lives. An hour, this reviewer feels ready to assert at any rate, that you will never want back.

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