Short and Sweet is a collection of eight comedy sketches (a ninth, "Talking Shit and Being Influential" by James Kermack, was not performed tonight - going from the rest this may be a blessing) performed by a cast of 15 under a team of directors. It definitely says "comedies" on the publicity, something I'm still feeling the need to double-check because it makes the selection of pieces even more baffling than it is already. There's precious few laughs to be had and in more than one case I have to genuinely question whether the writers actually intended them to be funny.
Only two of the pieces have a decent comedy premise and actual gags in the script - Steve Lambert's "Tea & Filth" is a parody of stereotypical British manners, well served by Scott Christie and Claire Marlowe as a married couple very politely discussing their sexual indiscretions; Christie also appears in James C. Ferguson's rather surreal closer "The Chair," in which a man informs his wife (Fiona Gordon) that their dinner guests have been eaten by some furniture. The actors in "The True Story" eke out some more laughs but all Katherine Hare's piece is is the old gag about small theatre groups being pretentious and desperate, with a pop at verbatim theatre to provide relevance, and it relies entirely on Henry Barrett, Sam Harrison, Hayley Emma Otway and Julia Cave to provide physical humour. The opener, Tommy Kearney's "Five One" is a single gag about overly PC football supporters, and the one gag isn't that well delivered. "Candy" by Russell Obeney raises the odd smile in a scene between prostitute and punter, and Rachel Barnett's "Finding the Geocache" is a rather vague pop at bankers. The remaining two are the ones I'm not convinced were ever intended to be comedies - David Drury's "A Woman of No Standing" sees two women meeting for the first time at the funeral of one of their husbands, while Andrew Muir's "Mummy Loves You" (another one centred on death) could, I suppose, be intended as a piece of Pinteresque weirdness but certainly not as a comedy, even a black one.
The small theatre was far from full, which doesn't encourage big laughs at the best of times, but most of tonight's audience were clearly friends of cast or crew; when even they sit through the majority in stony silence you've got to worry. What's odd, really, is that this particular selection of sketches came about at all. Plus it comes from a mixture of British and American writers so it seems like two whole nations have failed to put together a sketch show. Short? Some of them. Sweet? Not often.
Short and Sweet by Tommy Kearney, Kristen Anderson, David Drury, Rachel Barnett, Steve Lambert, Andrew Muir, Russell Obeney, James C. Ferguson and James Kermack is booking until the 9th of April at the Union Theatre.