The Stand Comedy Club Newcastle
1 Dec 2014
The sketch show format may be dying in popularity, but two new north-east groups – Teeth In Eggcups and Your Aunt Fanny – at the Stand in Newcastle last night worked their guts out to show it could easily recuperate. And move into a less ominous hospital. With plans being made to let it go home soon, if it keeps up the tablets and gets an X-ray done on its – okay, I’ll stop with that analogy now.
Alphabetti Theatre’s Teeth In Eggcups, led by writer Ali Pritchard, provide an enjoyably ramshackle evening of comedy with unpredictability as standard. While, on posters and such, they quoted BBC radio as labelling them ‘#thenewmontypython’, there was more an air of Spike Milligan about the proceedings; where sketches morphed from one into another, often stopping to comment on their own silliness with a cheeky smile as opposed to a Cleesian deadpan. The Mighty Boosh and Big Train were perhaps more obvious influences. Performers Jacob Anderton and Hannah Murphy were staunch and dependable, wading through a sea of amusing accents, while Dale Jewitt as gentle Jesus offered a cool, George Dawes-style MC (cooler obviously, since he’s Christ) as if he had been practicing it all his life.
Hannah, whether it was while acting as the straight ‘man’ – such as in the great, traditional escalating schoolroom sketch – or providing a daft character like the old lady on an obscene Sunday outing, struck me as having comedic timing and focus of the highest standard. She wouldn’t seem out of place in Smack The Pony. And neither would Jacob. They did have male cast members too. It would be good to see Jacob experiment with a wider range of characters and Ali, while undeniably joyous, did occasionally lack diction. Those are the few negatives I have at hand.
Some sketches fared better than others but the audience was never bored. Highlights included the recurring gag of a Grim Reaper who would rather be on X Factor (with Ali demonstrating his fun clackety hands), a horse looking for love in all the wrong places, a very neat Chekhov-ish parody in which the pedantic narrator starts messing everything up and the finals of the Olympic Spot The Difference Competition. Two recurring infomercial characters almost got dull but then they pulled it around with a nice twist.
The music too was also very fun and jaunty. Whether it was about the joys of fruit as espoused by the evangelical but uncoordinated Fruit Loopz or Dale’s solemn ditty regarding the licking of… well, an intimate act shall we say that doesn’t involve fruit, quite as much… their lively cabaret atmosphere was well appreciated. And the final song was a wonderful mixture of dark and daft which got the audience ‘hooping like a lioness that’s just lost her children to a poacher’ (to quote one of Dale’s links). In all, an extremely promising hour of entertainment that with a bit of polishing could become something very special indeed. Don’t miss.
The Eggcups posse were more-than-ably assisted by Live Theatre’s Your Aunt Fanny (the all-female sketch troupe, written by Laura Lindow and Lee Mattison), who are honing their act superbly.
The stand-out moment this time was undoubtedly Izzy Sorby as the twitching, dazed job applicant at John Lewis who occasionally bleated out painful life details (‘I’m a renowned Romanian prostitute!’ ‘At nights I drink a bottle of bleach then sh*t meself!’). Katie Powell was hilarious, particularly when discussing the merits of one Mickey Banana (‘Why do they call him Mickey Banana?’ ‘It’s just his first name put next to his second’) in a sketch with a marvellously crude and blunt punchline. But the entire group were spot on and gel endearingly. Characters such as the snobbish mums and a disturbed young poet surely have legs, while the linking device of a senseless game of I-Spy was also highly amusing.
Oh, and another possibly trad but stand-out moment was the ensemble sketch involving a group of schoolgirls describing their speech patterns. ‘Passive aggressive comment, triumphant hair-flick’ et cetera (but funnier, wish I’d written some of it down). Beautifully performed by all. Your Aunt Fanny have certainly mastered the art of constructing a reasonable-length sketch, which is very impressive at this early stage. A different being entirely to the freeflowing madness of the main act but there is certainly place for both.
A sketch show lives or dies on the strength, likability and connection of its performers. With that in mind, these are certainly two acts to look out for.