Nestled beside one of Little Venice’s most iconic bridges, the Canal Cafe Theatre sits above The Bridge House pub. It hosts regular evening and late-night shows in a relaxed atmosphere, where punters are invited to gather around small tables in a cabaret-style seating plan. The space is nothing more than a medium-sized function room that might appear cramped to some, but others, like myself, is welcoming and cosy.
A floor-to-ceiling window, open onto the tranquil neighbourhood street, gives it a homely feel, although for this performance it affected the total blackout that some sketches would benefit from; those short vignettes in which the four-strong cast (Sam Gibbons, Liv Hackland, Dan Thorn and Sebastian Senior) use still compositions to depict a situation. For example, a family lost in the woods is shown motionless around the fire and then, in the following iteration, in a hunting scene. These don’t quit elicit as much laughter as expected, possibly because the cast can be seen moving on stage between takes (even when the lights are completely off), which ruins the surprise effect.
Covering a broad range of topics appealing to collective imagination or everyday occurrences, most sketches don’t last more than a minute or so. On several occasions, they consist of just one line, delivered at such a breakneck speed that if you blink you miss it. Such a sustained tempo is a bit of a double-edged sword. Whilst allowing the company to move on swiftly from gags that have a lukewarm reception without losing the audience’s attention, it also prevents any comic timing from building properly.
There is a brief interaction between a body and a brain that – although a bit clichéd – could have been expanded into new developments, but in this case is cut too short. On the other hand, an exchange between a woman trying to watch telly and her mobile phone is performed to perfection and raised the roof.
Somewhat uncanny is the romantic scene in which a man receives a melodramatic confession from a woman called Marianna – my name! – which, if it was a fortuitous choice, was a hell of a coincidence! Another firm favourite is the “House of Boris”, in which Sam Gibbons – who is also Hodgepodge’s artistic director – provides a top-notch impression of Britain’s former Prime Minister.
Animated by Jamie Myles’s live music (keep an ear out for a song about his cat), this show directed by Dylan Allcock is fifty minutes of boisterous joy that fly by in a jiffy. It has already toured a number of venues in London and really suits the late evening above-the-pub format, in which audiences are likely to be looking for something palatable and disengaged. Combining undiscussed talent with exquisite entertainment, this all-you-can-eat of comedy has plenty to offer for everyone. Would I go to see it again? Of course, I would! Even more so because it is advertised as having new material and rotating cast each time.
Head Writers: Sam Gibbons and Dylan Allcock
Directed by: Dylan Allcock
Musical Direction by: Jamie Myles
Produced by: Sam Gibbons, Liv Hackland and Dan Thorn
Brazen Hodgepodge plays at Canal Cafe Theatre until 17 September, times vary. Further information and bookings here.