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Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Shirley & Shirley

Shirley & Shirley

Genre: Comedy

Venue: Assembly @ Assembly Hall


Low Down

There’s some clever writing and energetic performances from this female double act as they rush through a host of community relationships. From the clergy to fitness enthusiasts, everyone seems to be in the firing line



We enter the overly packed but small auditorium, ushered by Millie into our seats, latecomers being allowed to join in with Celeste’s "class". Celeste herself spends the protracted shuffling in warming up on stage, making the movements and sounds that anyone who’s been within 50 yards of a Drama school will well recognise. We are in the Winnie Mandela Community Centre, the fictional sponsors of the show, and the heart of the local, unnamed, East End community in which this entire sketch show is set.

The central idea to the show is that there is a community throughline but where it’s explicitly referenced in the second sketch it doesn’t then seem to carry through. The show also hinges on a breaking of the fourth wall which was, at best, a bit unnecessary and, at worst, embarrassing or an excuse for an easy laugh at some poor audience member’s expense. This female duo clearly have some smarts when it comes to writing but don’t appear  to have the confidence to rely upon their material.
they’ve also opted for a very "laddish" approach to their sketches, the idea of a nun and her secret dildo, or a brother and sister T.I.E team, teaching kids about the first forays into sexual contact are essentially vehicles to see women playing with sex toys and kissing. When the entire punchline of a sketch is a pair of women acting as a pair of young lads playing a game of the public school favourite, "Soggy Biscuit" (if you know the rules I needn’t explain further, if you don’t, you’re better off…trust me) one feels like you’re in very childish territory.
The girls committed to every idea and a lot of the time their energy carried the show. Their characatur-isations of the sort of folk you might meet in Stratford or Bow – the ladies of the W.I, the aquarobics students (another vehicle for implied lesbianism) Penny Abu Hamza (an arabic dance coach) and the drunken bride admitting to her husband that she knew about his adultery on the microphone at the reception Karaoke and finding a new man from the audence – were all whirling dirvishes of energy with on the button writing and a specificity rarely seen in new sketch comedy.
The potential on display is clear for all to see: this team are adept at turning a simple idea into an engaging set piece. Pysically, they bring a lot to their material too but in their relying on easy laughs from audience participation or “bloke-y” humour they undercut a lot of the good work they’ve obviously put in. The humour isn;t for everyone but if the idea of ejaculating onto a cream cracker in front of your dorm-mates and forcing one of them to consume it (sorry if I’ve ruined the surprise!) is your kind of humour, then there’s plenty more where that came from.