Review: Present & Correct

laughs along with Comedysoc’s latest weird and wonderful sketch show

Image: Dead Duck Productions

Venue: The Winning Post

★★★☆☆

If you’d ever wondered why frogs don’t make good life partners, this is the show for you. Present & Correct is a blizzard of bizarre and brilliant sketches written and performed by Comedysoc throughout the year. Starring Matt Chesters, George Blackman, Alice Lloyd-Davies, Becky Chatwell, Aneurin Christophers-Robbins and Freya Dawes, the show features a cast impressively small in comparison to the variations of characters and scenarios. Donald Trump, Liam Gallagher and shady airport inspectors are only a few of the characters bursting onto stage in a production as versatile as the actors’ talents.

Precluded by the Shambles, Comedysoc’s final offering of the term featured everything they do best. Improv comedy headed by Lewis Crook provided an interesting contrast to the scripted sketches. Beginning the night with “The Phantom Of the Opera In Space”, llamas and too much toothpaste, the Shambles proved an energetic start to the fast-paced flurry of sketches to come. As always, they delighted the audience, even as they tried to explain why seagulls kept crashing into cliffs – which, apparently, is so they can prove that they’re amazing warriors, who knew? 

While future audiences may miss out on The Phantom Of The Opera in Space, which unfortunately won’t be coming to theatres anytime soon, there’s definitely the chance to see Present & Correct at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2017! Preparing for all kinds of audiences, there is definitely an effort from the director Oliver Thomas to make sure the comedy isn’t exclusionary. While several sketches did feature humour centred on students, such as one featuring a rather absurd Oxbridge fresher’s week, students definitely weren’t a focus. My Fair Lady references, marriage problems and ever popular punchline Donald Trump make the show accessible for all ages. Although, ‘all ages’ is a term to be applied loosely; porn stars and Freud mean this show isn’t too family friendly. A strange choice perhaps for a show which will be performed in the morning in an Edinburgh café, but the more adult humour definitely landed with the audience in York.

Sketch shows are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get. With Present & Correct, what you get is largely advertisements. From Butter Dream to beautiful vacation destination MURDER ISLAND (capitals necessary), many sketches seem to follow a pattern which wasn’t always successful; Butter Dream was too often a punchline. The continuous nature of the show, where many sketches had multiple scenes broken up by other sketches, did allow for more complex jokes but wasn’t always a positive. Some sketches and punchlines, like Butter Dream, which didn’t necessarily land with the audience, were repeated. It highlighted a particular issue with scripted sketches; while in improvised comedy the actors can move on quickly from any unsuccessful jokes, the option isn’t available in Present & Correct.

However, the advertising theme did play to the actors’ strengths. Matt Chesters shone with his incredible voice acting, transforming what may have felt like one advert too many into a hilarious piece. The sketches often relied on the merit of the performers, who certainly delivered. Blackman’s talent for physicality, from a frog to an awkward plane passenger, was highly utilised in the sketches. Meanwhile, Lloyd-Davies leapt from a whining Oxbridge fresher to sleazy inspector with ease, displaying the kind of acting versatility which made the show a success. All in black, each actor adorned a different red accessory, such as a tie or a baseball cap. An unusual idea, the accessories were small enough to not interfere with each actor’s different characters but still stood out. They encouraged the audience to view each cast member as an individual and appreciate their own talents, emphasising the quick character changes each actor made. It was a costume decision which certainly paid off with cast members as talented as those in the production.

Present & Correct is, at its heart, simply fun. While there’s a degree of social commentary and political criticism behind their ideas, the focus of the production is certainly just to make the audience laugh. While many sketch shows would resort to offensive jokes as cheap humour, Present & Correct resorts to some of Comedysoc’s wittiest writers and performers. While some sketches didn’t seem to be the society’s strongest, the talented cast alone made the show worth watching. Present & Correct was a delight for its audience, displaying shrewd flexibility on top of just being hilarious. Just remember, kids, don’t ask a frog to marry you. Want to know why? See Present & Correct for yourself in Edinburgh during August 2018.

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