Live Review: Sketch Off Final 2020, Leicester Square Theatre

Live Review: Sketch Off Final 2020, Leicester Square Theatre

It wasn’t a great surprise that the Leicester Square Theatre was not quite full for this year’s Sketch Off Final. What was more of a surprise was that the line-up for the final was not full of sketch acts. There were probably only three traditional sketch acts in the ten-act final. Maybe next year the organisers should consider a Character Comedian of the Year Competition. After all, the host, spoof thespian Anna Mann (alias Colin Hoult) is already a classic character and would give the acts something to aim for.

First up was Stepdads, who made a bit of a splash in competitions last year with their fast-paced banter, one geeky (Luke Rollason), one Viking-looking (Tom Curzon). Before the gig they had posted online that they had crashed out of the Musical Comedy Awards before that final and although they made the final here their new act felt like it still needed a little work. A tech issue with looping pedal didn’t help. It might be funny to perform in your pants and fall over but it’s hardly pushing the comedy envelope.

There was more pedal action with the second act, Kathy Maniura, albeit of the cycling variety. Maniura (squint a bit and it could be Phoebe Waller-Bridge) started out by playing a hapless tour guide - a nice gimmick was the sign behind her head already foreshadowing her main gag, that she couldn’t say the word “Sarcophogus”. Her second character, a lycra-clad cyclist used the same device, only this time the sign said that the cyclist was a Twat. The Mamil (”middle-aged man in lycra”) is a familiar comic trope but Maniura brought something new to it when she then took on the persona of his hi-vis vest. That’s not something you see every day in character comedy and it helped to bag her the first prize.

Another character, Margaret came next. The red jump-suited Margaret was a stand-in teacher and did some nice crowdwork, treating the front row as her class. It’s always impressive when a relative newcomer is confident enough to go off-script and there were some good moments here, albeit not enough to get a gold star from teacher.

Double act The Awkward Silence was pretty much the kind of sketch duo one would expect in a final like this - if it had taken place twenty years ago. Their voices and characters were delivered at a cracking pace with absolutely precision. There was a neat film noir spoof but overall I just didn’t find them particularly funny. The phrase “Radio 4, 6.30pm, 1994” mainly sprang to mind. The other judges did though and they were placed second.

Roger Clammy was more up my street. This was character comedy again, with Clammy delivering a deadpan First Aid Lecture. It was the kind of thing that did not come with many actual jokes but the flat delivery combined with banal powerpoint imagery somehow worked. Clammy was certainly committed to his character right down to bringing on a D-I-Y defibrilator – at least I hope it was D-I-Y and not the kind the NHS uses. Clammy also put a new spin on the old “sing the Bee Gees while you pump the chest” gag which led to a rousing finish and earned him third place.

Review continues here.

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