Mirthquake! A Sketch Show | Oxford Comedy Deathmatch | Unicorn Theatre, Abingdon | Fri 10 & Sat 11 Feb 2012
Oxford Comedy Deathmatch have attracted a loyal band of followers for their monthly comedy improvisation nights and annual improvised pantos. Mirthquake represented a new departure for them: instead of making it all up on the spot, they have spent several months writing, rehearsing and even filming parts of their first scripted sketch show. By contrast with their usual ad hoc hilarity, created instantly and performed in simple black T-shirts and jeans, a lot of work had gone into the preparation and staging of this show. Would it pay off, I wondered?
The performance opened dramatically, the pace rapidly quickened, the audience warmed up (despite the chilly night) and the show went from strength to strength. The variety of material called for frequent rapid changes in costume and make up, but clever staging ensured that once the show had gained momentum, the pace was maintained by interspersing pre-filmed sketches and video clips with live action scenes.
The hilarious, perfectly filmed and brilliantly performed silent movie clip reduced the audience to helpless mirth – Ida Pearson is undoubtedly one of the funniest actresses I have ever seen. We also particularly liked the Literary Heroine wife-swap scene; and Alan Bennett‘s Talking Heads will never seem the same again after their portrayal in this show. The conception, choreography and performance of the final scene (what behaviour do you expect when faced with the threat of the end of the world?) had the whole audience in fits and it was quite a sad shock to find that a truly excellent evening of acutely observed intelligent comedy had abruptly come to an end.
OCD are currently exploring new territory: intriguingly, their next appearance will be as an “irreverent summary” of Flocking Environmentalists' Return of Resource Scarcity panel discussion at the Pegasus Theatre on 23 February.