Frankie Says Laugh - Review

The first of three nights under the banner of Comedy@Bedford Place had the theme of improvised comedy, a difficult and dangerous art form. In the wrong hands it can prove to be disastrous and fall horribly flat.

Therefore it is pleasing to report that this bold attempt was a success albeit a qualified one.

The first half took its cue from television's “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” enabling the talented quartet of actors to enact scenes and provide ad lib jokes from situations/lines suggested by the audience. The results were hilarious.

All the actors, in turn, took on the role of Frankie, the chairman who announced each round and handed out the suggested information. Each did so by giving their Frankie a different persona, - an American dumb blonde; a loud, brash and over enthusiastic master of ceremonies; God's gift to women, men or animals and El Bandido, a lively creation from Paul Wilson complete with roving false moustache.

Rounds played included the incorporation of a given line within a suggested scenario; a party hostess having to guess the unspoken quirk of her guests, characters from a Film Noir being played in various other film styles.

There was quick fire wit in the game where they dived in to boxes containing props and hats and came up with superb one-liners. Music played its part in the evening's proceedings. Lyrics had to be made up for a Hoedown and to fit differing song types on the nominated subject of Cheesy Feet!

The format changed after the interval when the cast, in the role of a quiz show panel and with the aid of audience participation, poked fun at game shows. The Price is Right; Blankety Blank and Family Fortunes were some of the targets.

However this segment, lacking tightness, came across as ragged with humour merely amusing as opposed to the belly aching laughter achieved before the interval. This may have been due to the actors having to interact with volunteers from the audience instead of with each other. They moved away from the comfort zone of knowing each other's humorous way of thinking and into the unknown and unpredictable reactions of the volunteers.

Newcomer to the NVT, Janna Fox provided the female perspective to the proceedings with comedic skills that had a frenetic edge to them. One looks forward eagerly to seeing her again in May.

There were many fine comic creations from Darren Cockrill who also provided the musical accompaniment with his guitar.

In contrast to the serious dramatic skill that he showed in American Buffalo, Ben Pritchard displayed his considerable talent for making people laugh. He has that ability to generate humour effortlessly with just a facial expression or slight body movement.

He was matched in his zaniness by Paul Wilson whose performance had echoes of the lunacy of Spike Milligan.

All four are to be commended for providing an entertaining evening full of wit, a touch of vulgarity and plenty of camp fun. Also they must be praised for their bravery in taking on the challenge of improvised comedy.

Barrie Jerram
23 February 2008