Pros: Hilarious, recognisable and dark in equal measure, this hits all the spots in one solid hour of entertainment.
Cons: The ending is abrupt and less well-rounded than the rest of production, and feels as though it misses something.
On the face of it, Sket is one of those playground comedies, a lens through which we can all look back at our teenage years and cringe until we laugh. Sket has all the raw ingredients: the pouting and popular girl group with their bad choice of handbags and worse choice of false eyelashes (we’ve all been there); the group of lads, alpha wannabes who are all attitude and no brawn. Sket’s characters are misguided and inexperienced, as we all were, and point blank refuse to accept that.
All the sex, the slang, the cool is what makes Sket funny, but the vulnerability of the teenager’s misguidance is what flips this comedy on its head. The laughs are born of reminiscence, and this leads us down the garden path into a realisation that things are far darker than they are funny. And then it hits us square in the chops.
The point at which our ability to reminisce is cut off is at the heavy involvement of social media, a very current pressure added to the already hefty weight of just being a teenager. Being fourteen is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to be, having your teenage-isms publicised all over the internet in the process would be positively unbearable.
The genius of Maya Sondhi’s writing is that comedy is never lost, because the darkness starts small and grows with the presence of social media. The darkness starts with one of the boys, Adam (Dave Perry), and his naïve racism influenced entirely by his father. It moves unnoticeably, into homophobia lead by over-exposure to porn, hardcore porn that is too readily available to these kids. This leads to even more darkness, as the girls are pressured to perform and the boys take on the lack of respect and violence that they have witnessed.
Sondhi smatters these aspects into the narrative, amid slapstick, via a helpless teacher (Anna O’Grady). Where Sodhi’s play falls short, however, is in its length. It’s too short (around 50 minutes). Fine, in itself, but it seems to have opted out of any sort of resolution.
The characters are well drawn, distinctively representing their role within the social group. From the leader, who is actually insecure, to his bolshie but damaged followers. The cast is led by Perry’s Adam. He plays loud hilarity against intense vulnerability with a stark, powerful simplicity. Tessie Orange-Turner as the most seemingly assured of the girl group, Tamika, is also on point. She brims with attitude and righteousness unwaveringly, making the eventual breakdown of her defensiveness all the more moving. Though these two actors carry it, the ensemble as a whole is impeccably balanced and enjoyably dynamic.
That dynamism is integral to both the comedy and the pathos of the plot. The direction is simple, striking only in the use of projections of recognisable schools, deserted benches turned smoking areas, and alley ways haunted by teenagers. As a whole, the production is as simple as it is intricate, as hilarious as it is thought-provoking. The only thing it misses is that extra ten minutes of resolution.