Home » Reviews » Off West End » Life in a Sketchbook, Top Secret Comedy Club

Life in a Sketchbook, Top Secret Comedy Club

Emma Minihan
Directed by Jonathan Woodhouse and Rachael Owens

Pros: Well written and funny. It will have you smiling throughout and not just because it’s free.

Cons: The vehicle for linking the sketches is a bit odd and not very effective. Some stories are stronger than others.

Our Verdict: A fun hour that will have you wondering about the sanity of city living.

Courtesy of ayoungertheatre.com

This little venue is tucked away in the basement of the Africa Centre on King Street in Covent Garden. It consists of one room containing the performance area plus bar and, given the balmy temperatures outside, it was relatively cool, which was a relief.

The show consists of six sketches of around ten minutes each. The chosen scenes will be familiar to most city dwellers. Minihan has written about topics such as the competition of job interviews, trying to find headspace at lunchtime, flat hunting for a home bigger than a shoe box and trying to break the hypnotic hold of TV. Everyday scenes but given a humorous treatment and a twist.

Most of us can relate to trying to make time for a proper lunch hour just to see it getting filled with other people needing your attention. I loved Robert Wallis as Geoffrey in The Lunch Break. His lovelorn serenade is both ridiculous and poignant but we can also feel the growing frustration and hysteria of Aggie (Francesca Amoroso) as she tries to put herself and her sandwich first for once.

Any work about city living has to look at the eternal quest for the ideal home, preferably with room to swing the proverbial cat and the much sought-after ‘outside space’. Marcella Carelli as the (estate) Agent in The House Hunt is a perfect mix of enthusiastic Duracell Bunny and bunny boiler. How many ways can estate agents find to create a positive spin and then pressure you into signing on the dotted line?

I think we would all recognise the pin-striped, tightly-wound caffeine addict and the sporty health juice fanatic who go head-to-head In The Last Table. What begins as a simple quest for a seat becomes a philosophical mind game as each character extolls the virtue of their personal value system.

Of the six stories everyone will have their favourites. I felt that The Dreamer and The Sofa were slightly less engaging but that’s just me. The characters are all larger than life as they have a short time to make an impact, which they all do in splendid style.

In a show of brief sketches the conundrum has to be how to link them. Here we are provided with a young woman leafing through a sketchbook for a few seconds between each scene. It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland dipping into a story book. This device does serve the purpose of clearing the previous scene from your mind so you can enter the next one afresh but personally I felt it was a slightly weak tool for linking. It puzzled me, which distracted me from the sketches’ excellent content.

That aside it was a fun hour of free theatre in the centre of town, where West End shows can command ticket prices of £100. It’s cleverly described as ‘six short stories’ rather than comedy sketches. This brings you in without any expectation of laughter so it comes as a pleasant surprise to find yourself emerging with a smile on your face.

Please note that although entry is free, donations are welcomed at the end if you would like to show your support. There’s no pressure to contribute and if you’re stony broke then I imagine a positive mention via Facebook or Twitter would be equally appreciated. 

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below! 

Life in a Sketchbook runs at Top Secret Comedy Club for one more show on 30th July 2013.
Box Office: free entry. For more information go to http://www.encompassproductions.co.uk/

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