first night

Happy Pills

Felicity McDowall enters the surreal world of Just Deserts.

A kangaroo believing it was a salmon, a talking teacup and a Mills-&-Boon-style church secretary were only some of the bizarre concepts that were offered up by Just Deserts as part of their new sketch show Happy Pills, performed in Kenworthy hall at St Mary’s College.

The show began with an introduction from the driving force behind Just Deserts, Laurence Stanley. He sat rather melancholically on stage, trying to engage the audience with his “whimsical musings” in which he demonstrated his knowledge of profanities, which rather than adding comedic value was rather distasteful. However, after his five minutes of ‘sit down’ comedy things picked up as the other performers began acting out a series of sketches.

The sketches all varied in their topics and relied upon both physical comedy, an array of props and some heavily exaggerated stereotypes to make the audience’s ‘sides split’.  Unfortunately, despite the hilarious sketches that all of the performers had collaborated on to create, the show was let down by the transitions. The ending of each sketch was rather clumsy as the performers rushed off stage, taking their props whilst there was an uneasy pause before the transitional music cut in. However, having songs play through the transitions was effective and could have been utilised more, as demonstrated when ‘Thriller’ played after a sketch about a zombie apocalypse, giving the sketch an even bigger impact.

The comedy was on top form as all of the performers seemed to be at their peak throughout all of the sketches. Tom Campbell-Moffat and James Bamber really stood out, as they appeared permanently at ease throughout the performance, as well as being able to make the audience laugh from just a meaningful look. This was especially so with Campbell-Moffat, who demonstrated how good-quality stand-up comedy can be effortlessly achieved as he introduced the second half of the show, utilising observational comedy and heightened stereotypes. Campbell-Moffat easily captivated the audience as he pointed out the idiocy of fashion through the example of incredibly short hot pants, whilst Bamber had me in stitches when he was reacting to a talking teacup and chair. It may sound unusual, but it worked exceptionally well as all of the performers had perfect comedic timing.

The highlight of the evening for me came in one of the last sketches in which two gay Vikings, trying to appear the archetypal macho Viking to their leader, pretend that they pillaged a town while it is gradually revealed that they just had a picnic on the beach. However, the sketch that really had me roaring with laughter was the fifthteenth and final one in which Campbell-Moffat played a kangaroo that had just discovered after eleven years that he wasn’t a salmon. It sounds rather quirky but Campbell-Moffat effectively reinforced the comedy of the scene by hopping around stage demonstrating his “marsupial prowess” and getting more and more agitated as the scene progressed.

It was a fabulous end to a fabulously funny evening in which Happy Pills truly lived up to the name, and I left feeling suitably happy after a good dose from Just Deserts.

Felicity McDowall

13 November 2012

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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