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The Scribbling Ape presents: 101 sketches in 50 minutes | Review

The Scribbling ApeI misread the show’s title, thinking it shouldn’t be too difficult to do 101 jokes in 50 minutes. I didn’t do a tally when I sat through Stewart Francis’ stand-up set at Edinburgh Fringe 2019, but I suspect he probably got through well in excess of a hundred punchlines in an hour. But this show isn’t about doing 101 one-liners – it’s 101 Sketches in 50 Minutes – scenes that are set-up and delivered in such a way as to be understood by the audience.

To be fair, there was no guarantee that they would all be chucklesome, let alone hilarious – and, as ever, one person’s delight is another person’s disappointment. There is, at least, something for everyone in this (inevitably) rapidly paced show. Technically, it was probably closer at this performance to sixty minutes than the advertised fifty, and as for how many sketches there really were – I wasn’t, fortunately or unfortunately, keeping a tally. Someone else in the audience who was trying to estimate counted 106 in total, though in his view that figure was within an acceptable margin of error, given the sheer number of different characters, accents and props involved.

It’s hardly the salient point (though if it is 106, hey, there’s five extra sketches for free, which is no bad thing). The cast, Ziggy Ross, Troy Hewitt, Libby Rodliffe and Talullah Bond, cover an impressive array of topics and themes between them. The sketches range from the sublime to the bizarre to the ridiculous, one moment giving an overview of the ITV drama series Broadchurch (not being someone who watches very much television these days, I could only take this production’s word for it), the next name-dropping Greta Thunberg and Jim Davidson in the same breath (I still have no idea what that was about).

There was just a smattering of audience participation – that there was any at all surprised me nonetheless, given the time spent (‘wasted’ is too strong a word here) trying to get answers out of unsuspecting patrons. Proceedings build to a suitably big finish, and the show isn’t, thankfully, exhausting to watch. There’s a rap about being vegan, which manages to be simultaneously amusing and respectful, though the decorum isn’t always maintained elsewhere, particularly when a baby is snapped at by its responsible carers who have had quite enough of its incessant crying. (Not that the characters would scream at an infant, it was more of an outward verbal expression of innermost thoughts.)

The show can also be remarkably perceptive, such as the sketch involving snobbish guests at a drinks reception who don’t exactly make it easy for waiters and waitresses to perform their duties, and then have the nerve to complain loudly about them over the most insignificant of (non) transgressions. Then there’s the person in need of medical assistance who wants a photo taken of them for the purposes of keeping their followers on social media up to date even before first aid is summoned, quite an indictment, in the end, on some people’s priorities in life.

There was the odd hiccup along the way, entirely forgivable given that the show’s techie had a lot of work to do in a relatively short timeframe. But the rawness and edginess of this production lends it more charm than an utterly perfect one would have. A good if brief night out.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

How many comedy sketches does it take to screw in a light bulb? 30? 50?! 100?! Well we’ve gone one better, literally. Join The Scribbling Ape as we embark on a brain-boggling quest to deliver 101 hilarious sketches in just 50 minutes! Audiences can expect a maelstrom of gags that strike with the precision of a scorpion’s tail, erupt with the vigour of a solar tsunami and sparkle with the flavours of aurora borealis… there will also be at least one sketch about a slug.

6th October 2019
Hen & Chickens Theatre
109 St Paul’s Road
London N1 2NA

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