Edinburgh Fringe 2010
The Pros from Dover return to Edinburgh with a brand new show of fresh, funny and slick sketches, with a bit of musical comedy and ad-libbing thrown in for good measure.
The Pros from Dover present us with a very original mix of comic sketches, some impression, a song, and relaxed ad-libbing; all performed using a very high standard of performance.
The show begins in a very informal way, with the three performers, Phil Whelans, Sean Garratt and Richard Glover simply standing before the audience, graciously thanking us for choosing to come and see them out of the three million or so shows there are at the Fringe this year. This immediately creates a relaxed atmosphere, and it is actually hard to tell how much of what is said had been scripted beforehand or has organically come into being during the course of the festival. More importantly, it just doesn’t matter. The audience is put at ease and warmed up nicely. The first sketch is set in a police interview room, which at first feels perhaps unoriginal, the characters seeming to be very familiar stereotypes that we as an audience have met many times before. However, this feeling is quickly overturned, as the sketch becomes something entirely different and unexpected. This is a device that is used several times throughout the show to great effect, making the familiar unfamiliar or lulling the audience into a false sense of security before surprising them with unexpected, highly original twists. This is clearly down to very intelligent writing. The scenes are edgy, treading the line of political correctness perfectly without being outrageous for the sake of it.
The acting is also of a very high standard, each of the performers clearly experienced ‘Pros’, something that is sadly lacking in many other sketch shows out there. Sean Garratt is appealingly charismatic, and would not be out of place in a period drama, but maintains a humility and willingness to look silly. Richard Glover’s characters are very convincing, and actually, in the case of the chicken who has survived a fox attack, border on the genuinely tragic. Phil Whelans has a strong stage presence, and brings a wonderful level of commitment to each character, whilst at the same time clearly enjoying himself.
There are several moments throughout the show when the performers deconstruct the sketches themselves ("This is a bit high concept isn’t it?" or "I’m a man in his late thirties at the Edinburgh Festival, dressed like this – what am I doing, eh?") which does work very well. My only criticism might be that it is taken slightly too far, as they refer to themselves just possibly a couple of times too many, which almost stops it from being as funny. Almost. As for staging, it is minimal, which is just as well, as the playing space is so small. The show deserves a bigger and better venue, and it would be interesting to see if that would open up more possibilities for the staging.
This is an intelligent, sophisticated, but also very genuinely funny sketch show. Well written, well performed and highly professional, but with a wonderfully large dollop of nonsense and ridiculousness. Highly recommended.