Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Transformer offer us just under an hour of mixed material in a face-paced sketch show that had much of the audience laughing heartily.
Transformer begin with a conceptual presentation of their show, and, from the start we know we’ll be mixing naturalistic comedy with caricature along with some surrealist laughs as well. Transformer are trying something new here I think. They are mixing styles of material, relying on simplicity of delivery – using their voices and some sharp observation rather than props and over-elaborate stagecraft.
So, it’s direct. It’s often deadpan and calm, though all three comedians vary their styles throughout the show. High quality acting skills are not consistently present and it feels sometimes like good improv scripted and then pressed and repeated. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.
These performers need to work on some basic voice projection and accents skills which sometimes run behind the quality of their material. Sometimes the deapan delivery is too understated and can be mistaken for being simply too low key. At times though, paradoxically, this is their strength and possibly the core of their promising uniqueness.
A lot of the comedy is comedy from the shoulders upwards and that kind of comedy relies heavily on the intellectual content carrying the humour as well as skilled eye contact with audience and each other (which they have aplenty). At times one of the characters stands with hands behind his back throughout the sketch (And he isn’t playing a policemen). It becomes a bit more animated as the show progresses and flits between big laughs and genius punchlines, and more muted audience reaction and too much under-delivery. Under-delivery is a real skill to pull off and get laughs. Jack Dee was a master at it. It doesn’t always come off as well as it should in Transformer. Yet sometimes they hit it pitch perfectly.
The show is often too understated because the material, though often funny, rarely reaches side-splitting. They need to step into their stronger material with the energy and panache of Clever Peter or The Ginge, The Geordie And the Geek, or they need to take their material up a comedy gear in order for it to ride easily on the wings of their often minimalist delivery. At the moment Transformer needs to transform – it sits uneasily from a theatre performance point of view in the comedy middle ground. The material is certainly better than the delivery of it, often with five star content at the heart of a sketch. They could make a virtue of their deadpan default, but at the moment their trademark style isn’t clear enough.
So, this is a good show but it’s too underplayed. The Twelve Days of Christmas song and the Smarties sketch give a hint of how good this group can and should be. But go and see it for some of the cleverly written material and playful comedy ideas. This might well be the beginning of a sketch troupe on it’s journey upwards.