Edinburgh Fringe 2016
This fun, well-matched foursome are back for their second Edinburgh Fringe at the Underbelly. They’re a uniquely creative sketch troupe who never let the pace drop and their sketches, which seem inspired by a mix of everything from dodgy therapy to Shakespeare, are as smart as they are silly. Fresh, clever and dynamic, they have heart as well as funny bones.
This highly entertaining show moves the audience smoothly from moment to moment, introducing new worlds and concepts at every turn. Phoebe Higson, Rhys Bevan, Lewis Doherty and Arabella Gibbins, each also working actors outside of sketch comedy, prove their capability as performers without a weak link existing between them. I massively enjoyed the vicar scene, which sees Gibbins particularly shine, whilst my favourite was the gaming sketch which Higson kicked off with excellent, infectious energy. They work so well as a group; I hope for more group scenes next year.
Laughing Stock’s musical talent is utilised, as in last year’s show, to brilliant effect. We see Gibbins reducing the audience to helpless giggles as her character ploughs on through the mire of online dating to find The One, and those who have caught the troupe before will be thrilled by the return of last Fringe’s favourite chart topping double act: pop sensation Ella and rapper Mini Cheddar. A touching movement sequence which underpins the whole show, accompanied by a well written musical motif, makes this team a real triple threat.
There is perhaps a little more to consider regarding the overall structure of the show. For example, Bevan is great in a sketch with a guitar which went down a storm with the audience, but then when a guitar is once again brought onto the empty stage with the opener “This is a song about…”, we initially expect more of the same – perhaps that second opener might be scrapped. Doherty plays two “gangsta” characters who, whilst separately entertaining, don’t quite provide enough of a contrast when seen together in the same show. They’re unnecessary because he is an excellent performer, especially funny in a highly creative Henry V section, and a rendition of Happy Birthday which manages to be both shockingly funny and hugely endearing.
I was struck by who was filling up the auditorium around me for Laughing Stock’s mid-afternoon afternoon slot. There were young children (parents should note the show does contain swearing and sexual references), older couples, families, middle aged groups and collections of teenagers, as well as the peers of mine in their twenties I had halfway expected to see. Whilst it’s not unusual to have a mixed bag in your audience during the Fringe, it’s impressive to be able to appeal to such a wide variety at once: everyone was laughing.
This group have enjoyed a huge amount of success and I don’t doubt they’ll be back next year to sold out houses, so catch them before the end of this summer if you can get your mits on a ticket.