Pros: Offered glimpses of some really promising characters
Cons: Some of the material was underprepared even for a scratch performance
Jerks in Progress is a comedy night playing at Etcetera Theatre as part of their Black Box Festival for upcoming theatre makers. When a show has a name like Jerks in Progress, I have to work quite hard to retain an open mind. And I was trying, but then I arrived at Etcetera for a pre-show drink in the pub downstairs, and the sports commentary was so loud that I had to grab my ticket and roam the streets of Camden disconsolately until curtain up.
Still, consummate unpaid professional that I am, by the time Adam Blampied and Lydia King took to the stage with their first sketch, I had my game face back on. Their rather shouty and frenetic set comprised three types of sketch: slightly revolting but not very funny, inoffensive but not very funny, and quite funny but hardly original. In the latter category was a parody of actors and stand-ups, which included some impressive comic dancing from Adam, and some laughs at their own expense. Blampied and King are trained actors, yet none of their characters achieved even two dimensions. One target that came up twice in the set was the hedge-fund couple, and in the context of a half-hour show, this could almost count as a theme. Perhaps they should develop this idea into a longer sketch, with more rounded characters and some genuine comic insight.
James Hamilton then took to the stage, looking geeky and diffident. His set was topped and tailed by the story of buying a gift for his grandmother, from the curio shop. There was a splendidly grotesque performance as the obsequious and money-grubbing shopkeeper, as well as a lavish reconciliation fantasy in which James is both the romantic victor and the loser. He interrupted this story halfway through, with the candid announcement that he wished to try out some new characters that had nothing at all to do with the grandmother or the gift. Strapping a furry bundle to his head with masking tape, he then gave us a Guard on duty. The Guard said nothing, but his brilliantly plastic face contorted anxiously as a recorded voiceover fretted about what to have for dinner, and how to keep away from a ‘poisonous’ ex. It was clever and amusing, and it even had a little twist. Next up was a jilted bridegroom, ranting drunkenly about his would-be wife’s choice of canapé. It was a shame that much of this sketch was delivered with script in hand, but even so there were plenty of laughs, and clearly enormous potential for development.
To judge by this set, James Hamilton’s ‘thing’ is writing and playing embittered losers. He is very good at it. The material was freshly minted but already strong, and Hamilton himself is a likeable, charismatic performer, with great vocal and physical range. If he develops the Guard and the Bridegroom any further, and learns his lines, then I would be keen to see the results.
Written and performed by: Adam Blampied, Lydia King, James Hamilton
Booking until: One off as part of the Black Box Festival. James Hamilton performs again with Elf Lyons on 25 January 2015
Box office: 020 7482 4857
Booking link: http://www.etceteratheatre.com