When I arrived at the venue for the final four hours of comedy society’s twenty four hour comedy-thon the previous twenty hours had definitely begun to show. The audience was scattered evenly about the room, either looking exhausted or huddled in small groups, empty wine and vodka bottles were left over from the night before; the general attrition could be felt. In spite of this, once the ensemble re-took the stage for some Whose Line is it Anyway style improvised games the room quickly reawakened, eager to suggest themes, characters and locations.
A large section of the performances took the form of improv games. At times these were brilliantly funny and light, a game in which three performers rotated between three scenes on cue was fast paced and ripe for humour. Tried improv mainstays, such as ‘world’s worst’ also served as a vessel for some big laughs. The group reacted dynamically to any interferences: at one point the stage lights cut out in the middle of a skit about a shark inspector and the two performers, rather than breaking character, shrieked and grabbed each other for safety. While with retrospect this may well have been a purposeful intervention by whoever had control of the lights at the time, it was nevertheless unexpected and was dealt with brilliantly by the performers. Unfortunately, however, some performances were slightly inconsistent. This was particularly evident in the final show, in which every shambles performer was on stage, giving a range of performances; from brilliant and witty to overdramatic and slightly forced. That said, the majority of the comics were on brilliant form, both clever and surprising in their performances (Mungo Tatton-Brown and Harry Whittaker stand out as particularly consistently funny examples).
The group’s panel show style segments were at best witty and well-constructed, while at worst they served as a reminder for why TV panel shows will shoot several hours of footage and then edit it down. Barring a few exceptions Have I Got News for York was a particularly successful example. It took a topical and clever look at the past year of university life (complete with a few successful jabs at Nouse). However, the insults towards YUSU President Sam Maguire began to feel a bit tired and unfair (there even seemed to be genuine tension between him and one panellist, whose visible mutual dislike took the form of an uncomfortable vibe, rather than any clever mockery or insightful criticism). This occurred to such an extent that the host even seemed apologetic as she saw it returning on her script. The fact that her apology (‘well I think you look friendly. And that’s all that really matters’) got one of the largest laughs of that time slot may not have helped…
Putting aside any specific incidents, the event’s faults stemmed almost entirely from a difficult format instead of individual performances (particularly when you remember that twenty hours of comedy had preceded it). The performers were quick witted and entertaining, it is definitely worth looking out for one of The Shambles’ more routine shows.