Watching these guys perform is rather like leafing through a comic book you find on the bus – colourful, varied, a little dog-eared in places, but all-in-all it is something you are glad to have seen and passes the time quite nicely.
The four members of A Little Dark, plus the bonus talent of a live piano accompaniment, present a high-energy whirlwind of sketches with commendable stamina and conviction. The opening series of quick, quipped jokes under flashing coloured lights has that eager, “ba-dum-psssh” feel, which establishes itself as a tone for the whole show. The longer sketches that follow are delivered with the same attention-grabbing energy: a flurry of voice and gesture that ponders the naming of warfare operations, sits in on a boardroom of bunnies, and keeps on taking you to the doctor. As we flick through the show’s comic book pages, our heroes are not afraid to get political (including a novel cameo from the Deputy Prime Minister), swear a lot, drop their trousers, and explain to you just why Noel Coward plays are taking over pubs around the country.
They race through various accents (of various standards), and yoyo between highbrow and lowbrow – it just wouldn’t be a student production without a few erudite references, now, would it? And perhaps equally, it wouldn’t be a student production without a few rather crude jokes about bums, tits and willies, alas…
Bums aside, the overly-long French waiter gag was lost on me – and perhaps lost in Europe, given the dodgy accent – although this sketch wormed its way into my good books with some witty lines right at the end.
I think this is the beauty of sketch shows: you are guaranteed to like something, and although for me the funny moments were in a minority, other members of the audience managed to get a laugh out of “jerk crime”, and the incredible meetings between patients in a waiting room.
Having said that, the longer sketches generally had the best pay-off, and the creepy character of ‘Elsie Richards’ was sinister brilliance that I feel we could have stuck with for longer.
A Little Too Dark is a showcase of vivid imaginations and raw talent, with some genuinely funny moments but a lot of superfluous material, and equally a lot of unrealised potential.
For me, redemption came with the final sketch – an ingenious reworking of Inception involving New York accents, shadow puppets, and farmyard animals, both dead and alive. The most beautifully crafted of all, this was – in my mind – the sketch that justified the entire show, the ‘Marion Cotillard’ that will refuse to leave.