Brighton Fringe 2011
As sketch groups go, the Dog Eared Collective are a little off the radar. After seeing their show, this feels both unjustified and a terrible shame – because the Dog Eared Collective are one of the most inventive, imaginative and brilliantly funny sketch troupes I’ve seen in a very long time.
Tonally, their material doesn’t quite gel with the sketch norm – it’s largely driven by concepts as opposed to punchlines. It does take a short while for Dogs On Show to hit its stride – I wasn’t convinced by their first two sketches – but as soon as the gloriously daft "Snooker! The Musical" hits the stage, the show will hook you in and refuses to let go until your sides are close to splitting.
Dogs On Show is clever, well-observed and genuinely delightful throughout. The quality of the ideas behind each sketch was consistently impressive: memorable highlights – of which there were many – included Paolo the Spanish vigilante, the St John’s Ambulance volunteer team ("Cuts and grazes!") precocious eleven year old genius Samuel Arkwright, Venetian Top Gear, the tour of the Warwickshire borders, and my favourite by far – the woman selling party supplies for wakes. Not only were the core ideas behind each sketch extremely inventive, but each had the sharp lines to back it up ("tragic with a touch of tart" is still making me chuckle, as is the later gag about Tom and Jerry’s influence on Tony the Tiger).
It isn’t just the quality of the written material that makes the Dog Eared Collective a sketch act to look out for. While other sketch groups at the moment favour mime and minimalist staging, the DEC revel in a dazzling amount of bizarre home-made props – and this contrast from other groups works in their favour. Their show was as theatrically inventive as it was comedically; the level of care and detail they’ve put into realising each sketch is hugely impressive. It takes a special kind of sketch group to custom make a miniature hearse out of biscuits for the sake of a quick gag, but their material is all the better for it.
As their show goes on, the Dog Eared Collective ramp up the absurdity notch by notch – introducing more and more colourful and well-made props and costumes that allow their imaginations complete and utter freedom on stage. It demonstrates a group that clearly love what they do enough to spend their afternoons putting together their ridiculous array props and material – and the amount of work they put in is rewarded by deserving laughter from the audience. Their commitment to creating inventive and unique sketch comedy is refreshing, and deserves more attention.
Here is a group that could never be accused of laziness or lack of imagination. Wholeheartedly and unreservedly recommended.