Edinburgh Festival review – Dregs

A new double act misfire in their debut but show plenty of promise

Dregs1Bit of a mixed bag this one. There’s a lot to like about Dregs, maybe they’re something for another year. Dregs are a young double act (Mark Smith and Max Dickins) making their Edinburgh debut with a sketch show that is helped along by between-sketch commentary and chit-chat between the two, as is becoming increasingly customary.

Some of their sketches contain good ideas that peter out (you could say the same about the show as a whole), leaving some comedy gold unpanned. I’m thinking particularly of a sketch with a pair of simpleton synchronised swimmers, and a finale that threatens to be glorious: its wonderful set-up that is so elaborate and contrived that it’s very funny in itself, but the pair fail to capitalise. It’s so often the way with sketch comedy, where finishing the bloody thing is arguably the most difficult aspect.

The start to the show is strong, with an energetic and banterful opening, and the I enjoyed the early sketches involving a bungling chancellor and a zoo salesman. These feel good: light in the air and with plenty of spark.

There aren’t enough ideas to sustain the hour though, and the audience’s attention wanes. One problem is the two personas adopted by Dickins and Smith: they seem to be indistinct and fluid. So when Dickins gets increasingly angry in a sketch about lying, it feels a bit baseless, and they rely too heavily on (homo)sexual tension for laughs. Elsewhere, Dickins is at one point giving girlfriend advice to Smith, then later on the tables are turned. This may be a deliberate, but it only muddies the waters.

The inclusion of actor John Dredge as a third member is a smart move, and he intermittently appears to help out in an amusingly incompetent, deadpan manner. His mysterious relationship to Max is a theme that doesn’t work for some reason, an example of Dregs probably aiming for enigmatic but ending up with confusing.

A lot of the above issues are common to new comic pairings – as Dregs are – so I may be being a bit harsh, so let it be said that there’s plenty of imagination and comic skill on show, and better things will hopefully come.

2.5 stars

Dregs is on at 9.30pm at Underbelly.

What the punters say

Nick, Edinburgh: 3/5. “I noticed a few people walked out which I thought was a bit harsh as I enjoyed it, it was a bit long though.”
Julia, Amsterdam: 3/5. “I liked it even though it was a bit hit and miss.”
Adam, Bristol: 2/5. “I’ve seen some much better sketch things than that this year but it was alright.”
Review written by Paul Fleckney

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