A misfiring sketch calamity from a seasoned writer who should have known better
Richard Sparks is best known for writing the Rowan Atkinson schoolmaster sketch which he performed at the Secret Policeman's Ball in 1978. After four decades away from the Fringe, Sparks is back with, sadly, one of the worst sketch shows in living memory. As we troop in, a man is asleep on a beach with a colourful cocktail in his hand and gaudy summer shirt on his back. He awakens to tell us that crazy things can happen in your dreams, after which we live through the nightmare of shoddily put-together scenes and routines that would have shamed a school production.
In deciding how to play each sketch, the four performers have chosen the over-the-top setting. It could be that this decision was made as a means of somehow compensating for the paucity in the script as though wild histrionics could mask the dearth of comedy in the lines. There are painfully clunky bits about how mobile phones are enslaving rather than emancipating us, an ineffectual flasher, and something about meeting Brad Pitt in a toilet. A stone cold silence met almost every single 'punchline'.
In one pre-August interview, Sparks spoke of how he mentored The Protégés via Skype from his home in LA. That comment is perhaps helping us get closer to how such a disconnected and misfiring show could ever have been put together.
Underbelly Med Quad, until 28 Aug, 2pm, £9.50–£10.50 (£8.50–£9.50).