Brighton Fringe 2011
The Three Englishmen are refreshingly down to earth with their approach to sketch comedy. Their hour-long show easily demonstrates how you don’t need clever conceits, elaborate narrative arcs or thematic gimmicks to stand out in the genre: all you need is punchy, tightly-written material, and the four performers have that in spades.
If the Englishmen do have a "hook", it’s the musical element of their show. All four are excellent singers and capable musicians, which gives them a powerful advantage over similar sketch acts. Many of the show’s highlights came from the songs and musical jokes, including their brilliant opening number (an ode to technology gone by), the medley for the man needing directions, and the intrusive presence of Sir Paul McCartney.
For the most part, the Englishmen‘s material is incredibly strong: they pack a hell of a lot of sketches into their hour, and almost all of it wins well-deserved laughter and applause from the audience. It’s wonderfully daft and exceptionally silly, and only a few sketches – Ringo Starr, Wings of a Plane – miss their mark.
Truthfully, though, there are too many highlights in the show to warrant listing here – the sketches are almost all genuinely hilarious, tightly written and expertly delivered by the four performers (my companion and I are still laughing about the Blind Chemist and the chess super-computer).
A final mention must go to the Englishmen themselves, all of whom are remarkably funny gentlemen. All four have superb comic timing and on-stage chemistry, which turned even the occasional mistake in the show into a warm, entertaining moment.
The Three Englishmen only just fall short of five stars here: transitions between sketches often took longer than they should have (the show’s looseness often added to its charm, but perhaps a bit more rehearsal and slickness was needed), and the weaker sketches really stuck out against the generally high standard of the material. Nevertheless, The Three Englishmen are officially one of my new favourite sketch troupes. Refreshingly back-to-basics comedy from four very talented writers and performers.