A new showcase and testbase for local talent, this Oxford Comedy Scratch Night (to be held trimenstrually) is a new initiative from the Dead Secrets. Hosted by Ida Persson and Jen Sugden, in their personae as a work-in-progress comedy duo desperately seeking a comic identity, it brings a range of performances from first-time amateur to the experienced professional. This first offering included two monologues, one comedy stand-up, one well-rehearsed double act, a three-person sketch and the first 15 minutes of a 42-minute radio play targeted at Radio 4’s Afternoon Drama slot. Audience criticism was invited at the end of each performance. This was no Comedy Store – the criticism mainly took the form of gentle, supportive questioning and suggestions for improvement.
In some cases, no major improvement will be needed. Nathan Grassi stole the show with his performance of a monologue taken from an Italo Calvino story, in which cake plays a major role. Hats off to Nathan for his eloquent delivery – despite having multiple cakes in his mouth, which amazingly did nothing to impair his elocution – and for his balletic physicality. The only improvement recommended by the audience was “more luscious cakes”!
Hats were on and spectacles off for Kevin Elliott’s delivery of the confessions of an accidental vampire hunter, slightly updated from the Cambridge Footlights version performed by Stephen Fry. “Is not being able to see us an advantage?” the audience asked.
To Wayne Brown’s credit, we did not realise he was a stand-up comedy virgin until he told us. He had a hard act to follow: the preceding duo of Chris Michael and Alex Jeepshad been honing their comedy partnership for months, as a novel way to deliver road safety messages to schools. Their portrayal of a plodding allotment society chairman and his unwilling assistant delivering a lesson in risk assessment had the audience in stitches throughout. The deft handling of an armful of disobedient planks was the funniest subverted juggling act I have ever seen. Look out for their show at the Pegasus Theatre in May.
Adam Poston’s inspired ideas for a low budget gameshow spoof, Game Set and Match, provided another of the comedy highlights of the evening, with his “revolving host”. This was well-rehearsed and expertly performed, with impeccable timing.
If you think you are a budding comic genius and would like to show a local audience what you can do at the Dead Secrets’ next Oxford Comedy Scratch night in May, please contact the Old Fire Station theatre, at firstname.lastname@example.org