The Three Englishmen continue their residency at the Canal Cafe Theatre in Little Venice tonight, performing a variety of fast-paced and quick witted sketches.
I find the venue and get ushered to a table just three inches from the stage. Having not yet heard of this London troupe or their success at last year’s Fringe, my initial expectations aren’t toweringly high. However my preconceptions are quickly dispelled as they launch into the first sketch full of charisma and energy.
Their brand of humour is smart, well thought out and occasionally surreal. While some material in the show is patchy and once or twice misses the mark, on the whole it is well written, punchy and clever; mirroring the beat and eloquence of British comedy greats like Monty Python and Fry and Laurie.
A sketch about horse racing sees one of them carrying another on his back, with a bridle in his mouth, leaping over fences in slow motion. In a post-race interview the pertinent question is asked: “Congratulations on winning the race today. What do you say to accusations that you’re not actually a horse?” to which he replies “Ah well I don’t pay attention to it you know, I just try to keep my mind on the race”.
It has to be said that what makes these guys stand out most from the crowd is their acting ability. All four of them are superb performers with nuanced personas and excellent timing. Each of them contributes to the whole with their expressions, mannerisms and physical presence, complimenting one another in their different roles. They also have a certain way with words, reminiscent of the Cambridge Footlights or Beyond the Fringe, which lifts their initial ideas into something more engaging and witty.
A sketch about Dr. Pussington, the eminent feline Egyptologist, should have been an idea with only limited longevity, but they manage to keep it alive purely on the strength of their performances, and through tongue-in-cheek quips such as “What’s the matter Dr. Pussington? Got your own tongue?” or “You’ve really put yourself amongst the pigeons now”.
Even a sketch which starts off with an Al Jazeera-style hostage video manages to pull through despite expectations and gain wholesome laughs from the room. At all times the show feels fluid and unstilted as they fill each gap with little gestures, expressions or responses that make them seem spontaneous and unrehearsed.
Halfway through, they invite a special guest to the stage to perform a short set, character comedian Colin Hoult. Hoult is outstanding as Len Parker, a downtrodden loser with something to prove who thinks he’s the hardest man in the room and claims to be the luckiest person alive because he has managed to combine his hobby with his job (working in an old people’s home, and teaching karate). It works as a perfect intermission to the show and his act is hysterical.
I went in thinking it would be a rather tepid student comedy revue, but I came out grinning from ear to ear. The laughs came frequently throughout the hour-long set, and I reckon if they continue with the performance and writing skills they’ve demonstrated tonight, these guys really could go on to big things.
This article was originally published at Spoonfed.co.uk here: http://www.spoonfed.co.uk/spooners/samgould-5043/the-three-englishmen-at-canal-cafe-theatre-2076/