Review: Detention

Image credit: Photo: Adam Woolf; publicity design: Alfred Leigh

Not going to lie, I definitely overuse the expression ‘lol’, but (still not lying) this play definitely merits the tag ‘laugh-out-loud funny’. The intimate Corpus Playroom auditorium was ringing with laughter throughout this hilarious, hour-long, original sketch show.

The premise is Saturday detention, which forces together a bunch of misfits: that is, a bunch of hilariously well-observed and hyperbolically played stereotypes. Noah Geelan is the ‘rebel’; Leo Reich, the ‘princess’; Kate Collins, the ‘outcast’; Stanley Thomas, the ‘brain’; and Laura Cameron, the ‘jock’. (Reich’s stroppy and self-absorbed ‘princess’ figure was a personal favourite.) Will Hall is the doddering teacher desperate to ‘get down with the kids’ and join in this ‘heartwarming’ emotional bonding session (what else could possibly happen when you artificially throw together a group of seemingly immiscible high-school stereotypes?)

‘Is this just the 80s cult classic The Breakfast Club?’ suggests the show’s Camdram blurb. No – it’s basically every cliché high-school movie ever made, but funnier. And less coherent. Because it comprises a loosely framed collection of sketches. So, no, actually, maybe it would be more accurate to say that Detention effectively clambers on the back of The Breakfast Club and other such classic high-school movies, clobbers them over the head, and dances with and over and around the dazed old bodies with ingenious agility. (I’ve never actually watched The Breakfast Club, but do I even need to now that I’ve seen this?) Nonetheless, littered with music and film references to 80s cult classics that everyone will recognise, Detention is all the more enjoyable for this intertextuality.

The sketches themselves are dazzlingly eclectic, showcasing the wide-ranging talent of every member of a cast whose versatility and energy is truly impressive. The variety includes a great mime sequence from Cameron, as well as musical sketches from Thomas and Geelan. 

The comedy is astute, well-written, and brilliantly executed. Sketches range from the outright bizarre (such as an advert for ‘quorn humans’, so that cannibals can pursue their chosen diet guilt-free – poking fun at consumerist/advertising culture? Or at vegetarianism/veganism which is growing increasingly ‘trendy’? Or – just having fun?), to the topical (one features Trump), to tongue-in-cheek social critique (one attacks private schools). This is not to say that the production moralises, though; at its heart, it is eminently playful.

A large part of Detention’s appeal lies in its irreverence: this is a production which is not afraid to laugh – at you, at itself, at the state of the world we’re situated in. I said the premise is Saturday detention, and, indeed, the premise is just a premise, and attention is repeatedly drawn to its function as a premise. The show’s self-awareness and self-reflexivity is exhilaratingly delightful, and just so, so funny.

Efficient set and lighting changes make for slick transitions between sketches, and music is used to great effect to set the tone for sketches, and enhance the comedy, again through the playing up of recognizable stereotypes.

Detention is a vibrant and irreverent comedy with a charismatic cast; let yourself be detained in the Corpus Playroom one night this week, and laugh at the weirdness and wildness of modern-day life with this talented crew of writers/performers.                                    

8/10

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