Words By: Sarah Ison
Image Credit: Mashable.com
There are few places that you can find as unabashed political incorrectness and uninhibited content than in student written and performed theatre.
However, as I sat myself down on Monday in the UWA tavern, drink in hand; I couldn’t have predicted just how much this very fact would be proven that night.
The doors for Top Shelf Comedy opened at 7.30pm on Monday, letting in an impressive crowd for opening night. For half an hour before the curtain went up, the audience was free to wander the tavern, enjoy a couple drinks, and be entertained by a very talented five-person band.
Just after 8pm, a tall, longhaired young man in a blue suit introduced himself as the director of the show and welcomed us to Top Shelf Comedy. We were promised a night of laughs and ‘good vibes’ before the director made his leave and the lights went down, preparing us for what I hoped would be just that.
For the next two hours we watched seventeen, original five-minute skits, which culminated to some of the most ingenious and simultaneously offensive material I have seen in some time.
A notable sketch of the first act was titled ‘Terminal’, a skit which satirised the recent failings and ultimate tragedies surrounding the Malaysian Airlines.
‘Think it’s too soon?’ the director asked the audience as he introduced the sketch, ‘Well too bad, we don’t’. This unapologetic crassness and offensiveness was what characterised the entire show, with skits ranging from porno parodies to nothing but unashamed dick jokes.
A standout skit of the night was titled Old Friends, which took place at a bizarre get together with guests including Jesus (Tim Gauntlett), Aphrodite (OJ Jurat), Loki (Rupert Williamson) and Obi Wan Kenobi (Jonathon Sweeney); because why not?
Like many skits of the evening, this short performance was full of an absurdity and ludicrousness that was nothing short of hilarious. Cleverly written and executed with almost faultless comedic timing, this particular sketch was a definite crowd favourite.
Similarly, Flipsy and Flopsy, a horrific parody of your typical flowers and rainbows kids show, couldn’t have received more applause and laughter, so much so that actors Grace Chapple (Flipsy) and Gareth Hearne (Flopsy) had to take several lengthy pauses, in which it was obvious they were having a hard time not laughing themselves.
Also entertaining was ‘Stevie and Choofer’, a skit which gave a satirical but all too true look into the life of an aging university student coming up to the mid-twenties mark, and subsequently facing an absurd life crisis. This particular sketch was full of sharp one liners and well thought out observations of university life that culminated to both enjoyable and highly relatable content for the show’s audience.
The seventeen-person cast of the show was full of talent and every actor leapt into their roles, seemingly without a scrap of inhibition. There were bears, old Russian hags, coked up law tutors and all-too-white rappers, all of whom were portrayed with levels of enthusiasm and vigor that rendered almost every sketch a high-intensity, entertaining performance.
Our director and MC for the evening was a performance unto himself as he introduced each skit, beer in hand, often making remarks at the audience, and even praising hecklers for the smarter taunts of the evening.
With seventeen skits performed to us that night, it was to be expected that not every one was a home run, and there were just a couple that fell short. Compared to all the very strong and entertaining sketches of the evening, this mattered very little, however there were choices to put some of the strongest skits back to back with the weakest, which could have been avoided to create what might have been a better flow to the overall performance.
Additionally, the writing for every sketch was on average very strong, so it was disappointing when the audience would miss even just one word due to poor actor vocalisation. This was an understandable consequence of the actors not being mic’d up and delivering their lines in a large, high-ceilinged venue. However, a slightly slower pace to many of the lines could have prevented the audience missing what was often very well written dialogue.
Despite these shortcomings however, Top Shelf Comedy 2015 was overall a very enjoyable show. Performed in an intimate venue perfect for allowing the audience to have fun and interact with actors, and by a cast that knew no limits when it came to making people laugh, this compilation of sketches culminated to one enjoyable and highly original performance showcasing the talent of many budding writers, actors and directors.
Top Shelf Comedy is running every night till the 15th of May, and promises an evening of originality, ludicrousness and laughs.