For – Adrian Horan
Forget everything you know about evil, boys and girls. Forget Hitler, forget false advertising, forget back-handed compliments. Penderson Brothers’ Office Supplies is the new evil in town – two hours: “full of fun, imagination and a guy’s hand shoved up my bum”, ComedySoc showcased their evil-doings in what has to be their best show yet.
The show opens with the portrayal of graduates Natalie and Alex, capable job candidates who are just, well, looking for a job. Thanks to an imaginary job fair, marmalade and the reluctancy to not have microscopic parasites in their system, they both accept a job at Penderson Brothers’ Office Supplies, a too-good-to-be-true company that hasn’t been an office supplier for a considerable amount of time. As they soon discover, the company isn’t as generous as it may seem: it’s filled with capitalist secrets, islands made of gold and an employment team who are sinfully awful at their jobs!
With only a trailer, quirky email and Facebook event to give away any details of the concept, I was unsure of what to expect going into the show. However, the audience were treated to a piss-your-pants funny rendition of tea-boy mockery, panto banter and revolution inspiring sadistic hand puppets – not something you get from the title.
The writing itself was cutting edge – successfully mocking itself, the audience and the sad, sad capitalist world that we live in. This combination made for a clever premise, proving that you can teach an old dog new tricks (or you can just sacrifice that dog to the demon gods in order to pay off your debts, the Penderson way), whilst creating a wonderfully rounded story that left us with many morals about capitalism, corporations and sharing.
The cast were both hilarious and versatile. I could go all Match of the Day about it and babble as to who was my favourite team player, but I think everyone had their individual favourites. Whilst a few jokes (the confectionary sketch in particular) were a tad deflated, there weren’t any poor efforts on hand, either from the writers or the actors. Definitive proof: the guy in front of me was laughing, rocking back and forwards like a human jack-in-the-box, at just about every other line!
Against – Sam Stockbridge
ComedySoc’s recent performance of Penderson Brothers’ Office Supplies was a light-hearted sketch show with much promise, held back by a few points that left it feeling somewhat unfinished.
There was a strong start with lots of witty one-liners and an intriguing introduction to the storyline. Immediately, I was struck by the portrayal of Natalie as a stand out performance. Her characterization and dry humour was a major strength in the show – reminiscent of a young Sara Pascoe or Holly Walsh, perhaps.
If only the high standard had continued after that striking opening, whilst Adrian makes some interesting observations, the show began to present aspects needing improvement. A lot of the sketches in the show ended up feeling very repetitive, especially in the second half – it felt the comedy relied upon and circulated the same few themes. This was mirrored by a few of the different character portrayals blurring into one. It is especially important in comedy for characters to feel distinct and fresh, but unfortunately a few characters in this show lacked their own personality. It seemed comedians used the same tone and mannerisms as each other, making it less of a witty sketch show and more like pantomime.
Penderson Brothers’ was hindered further by the gaps between scenes punctuated by jarring lighting changes and sudden music cuts, something easy to improve upon to make the change between sketches as smooth as some of the action, which in itself was strong. The use of videos was amusing, for instance, the satirical adverts and “Welcome to the business” infomercials were a great idea and gave the performance more variety. Perhaps they could extend these to cover the longer scene changes.
The balance between maintaining a feeling of spontaneity whilst being amply prepared was all over the place. At some points the dialogue was so rehearsed that the actors were mouthing each others’ lines as they were being said. Yet, in two of the scenes and one of the videos the actors were reading from scripts. In the video not so much, but for a live performance this is comedy sin. If the actors don’t know their lines and can’t improvise, then just cut the sketch, it dragged the pace to a shuddering halt and the momentum through the rest of the performance suffered greatly.
ComedySoc very clearly has some great student comedians, but this show felt more like a dress rehearsal than the final performance and fell short of its comedic potential. Although a steal at only a few pounds a ticket, I had higher expectations and left the theatre wanting more.