St Andrews’ improv comedy troupe Blind Mirth scripted a sketch show to go up in the Byre Theatre as part of this year’s On The Rocks festival. One of the festival’s largest venues proved tough to fill as the show attracted a small crowd; the Byre was less than half full. With a focused audience, there was an added pressure to land jokes, there being less people to fill the silences with laughter. However, the show went on, and commenting on the lacklustre turnout was a good-humoured ice-breaker between the comedians and audience.
Adorning red gowns and Hunter wellies, St Andrean student stereotypes were played on, and while this was comical, there remained a lack of energy and stage presence throughout most of the sketches. The performances seemed to attract a few chuckles here and there, however took a long time to reach the punchline, and for the audience to warm up to the characters. Thus, it was body language and its implied humour that translated well from stage opposed to the script.
Starting off somewhat flat, the show did see an improvement. Controversial topics livened up the production, and playing on Scottish and English stereotypes throughout was predictable, yet hilarious. James Hall’s performance throughout was strong, the characters he assumed were funny and his parody of Sally Mapstone was one of the most well received jokes throughout the night. Cutting humour paid off well when used, giving the show some much needed substance and tact. Pushing boundaries more often would have kept the audience’s attention and support throughout, and it was unfortunate that these few comedic moments were lost among a plethora of content.
James Hall, Liam Mitchell, Ed Polsue and Harrison Roberts commanded the stage as their acting skills surpassed that of the others. Harrison Roberts was a stand-out performer in his role as an English gentleman, as well as Marvellous Marvin and even God. His range of characters demonstrated a natural talent for acting and an ease with being on stage. The ‘Marvellous Marvin’ skit saved the show, encouraging some audience participation, creating an upbeat atmosphere for the first time. The importance of characterisation was emphasised during this successful sketch as the big personalities within the scene were able to display their true talents as comedians.
Overall, a good effort was made by Blind Mirth. However, turnout seemed to affect the energy of the performers and incited a lack of confidence. The acting generally needed more conviction and hyperbolising the characters to a greater extent would help to achieve this, as well as land more jokes. Their one-liners in which they played on their own name, Blind Mirth becoming ‘Blind Surf’ and ‘Bind Mirth,’ distracted somewhat from a rocky show, the playfulness a welcomed break. Some technical issues also hindered transitions between sketches, however were mostly resolved quickly. Thus, the pressure of the large stage, and what has been so far a successful On The Rocks festival, seemed to overwhelm. Nerves affected the delivery of the show which could have been funnier, as shown by some key moments in the script. That being said, it was clear the comedians and crew have a lot of passion for what they do and with some minor changes, could vastly improve next year.