Review – Beasts, Solo

The LiF verdict on the third show by these very silly boys

Beasts sketch comedy
The kings of live sketch comedy in recent years have been Pappy’s. But with the success of Badults on BBC3 bringing a partial abdication, the hunt is on for a successor. One of the names being mooted, thanks to a bundle of positive Edinburgh reviews, is Beasts. As it happens, Pappy’s are intimately connected to Beasts’ latest one, called Solo, as Tom Parry directs the show. And if light-hearted, chaotic sketch comedy is your thing, then Beasts are certainly worth a look. Solo is a 60-minute onslaught of silliness and with plenty of ideas all cunningly woven into a rounded show. But do Beasts ultimately measure up to their sketch godfathers? Not on this evidence.

 

The premise is that Owen Roberts, James McNicholas and Ciarán Dowd have split the group, and are here to present their solo shows instead. There’s Owen (the earnest, conscientious straight man, centre) with his worthy play about Nelson Mandela; there’s James (one of the two goofballs, and a sort of a cross between Alan Carr and Simon Pegg, right) with his magic show; and Ciaran with, among other things, a “sex robot made of gammon”. Cue lots of sabotaging of each other’s show, and additional tomfoolery such as wistfully remembering a past member of the group, and a spoof dance routine to an Elton John classic depicting the moment Nelson and Winnie met in a bar.

 

On the whole it works. There’s comedic chemistry onstage and for all the “chaos” it’s a tightly run ship. Their full-throttle approach sustains the entertainment for the full hour; a few moments that stood out for me were James’s elaborate entrance with the suggestion box and subsequent payoff, and Owen’s surly reincarnation during James’s magic show.

 

The reason I didn’t find it a 4-star show is nothing more complicated than a lack of real quality. For me too many skits fell short of being truly funny, and some of their methods felt too familiar, such as the mature-immature dynamic and the tendency towards stripping. If anything, Beasts’ associations with Pappy’s and the stylistic similarities only make me crave the real thing. I’m reminded of a Joanna Newsom lyric (if citing music is allowed in a comedy review) that was almost certainly written with Pappy’s in mind: “The shape of their goneness flares up anew.” Indeed, the throne remains vacant.

 

***
Review by Paul Fleckney

 

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