Imagine you're a sketch comedy company whose members have grown up knowing about sketches from television rather than the stage, and have taken on board the trend of the last several years towards surreal and non-linear sketches. You have enough good notions, and you're all solid performers. You might not even notice that you have a fundamental problem, but you do, and it's this: without a big punchline or a formal end to the routines, how do you get off the stage?
It's a perennial problem, and one which the Übersausage company inadvertently demonstrate rather well. They are good at inserting bizarre, unexplained elements into their sketches, and are full of ideas (although they occasionally let niggling inconsistencies arise), but again and again they finish by simply running off the stage without having given themselves any reason to do so other than that the idea has run out; the routines don't end – they just stop.
A few years ago I began to use the term "post-student" for a particular level and standard of fringe theatre. It's now clear to me that there is also a post-student level of comedy, and that in this field the shortcomings are more obtrusive and the transition harder to make.
Written for the Financial Times Web site, ft.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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