Review: Acting the Goat: A ‘Sketchumentary’

Cameron Wallis 25 April 2016

After a tremendously shaky start, featuring camera phone footage seemingly compiled by a drunken chimpanzee, Acting the Goat: A ‘Sketchumentary’ eventually warms up to be a tepid watering-hole of bad animal puns and awkward, if occasionally quite hilarious, enactments of scenes from an anthropomorphised animal kingdom. At times, the Lady Margaret Players’ production contains amusing skits that succeed in extracting a few bleats of laughter from the audience. However, the overall performance is rather scruffy and lacking in finesse.

This ‘sketchumentary’ struggles from the start, performed in the Palmerston Room at St. John’s College, a challenging stage to exhibit talent on because the lighting is uncomfortably dim. In conjunction with its shambolic sound production, the show makes for quite an unpleasant sensory experience: as one’s eyes strain to make out the low quality footage played on screen, one’s ears struggle to pick out the uncompressed audio.

Another slight problem with the opening is the dramatic background music, which at first seems exciting, as if preparing the audience for an epic quest. Yet the effect begins to wear off after the seventh repeat of this juddering two minute loop.

Shamelessly, five actors enact scenes from the animal kingdom as dictated to them by the show’s host, Tobias Fiddlepint-Smythe, performed in a fun, quirky manner by the play’s director Guy Lewy. Lewy, along with the rest of the cast, sometimes falls out of character, perhaps hoping the goatish beard he wears will hide his grin- but by doing so he brings to the show a pleasant light-heartedness.

One cannot help but like all of these actors even though their punchlines are prematurely delivered, their lines dotted with ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’, and their jokes often beyond poor. These are actors who are readily able to laugh at themselves: it takes bravery to stand upon a stage scratching one’s knees and underarms as though an ape, for example.

Furthermore, hidden among several embarrassingly unfunny sketches are a few golden moments, in which cats throw up fur balls, polar bears complain about their unfair representation in the media, sharks attempt to outwit humans, and our somewhat senile host gives a bitter presentation on why otters have an unjustified reputation for sweetness with their ‘silly little otter hands’, suggesting they should be rebranded as the scourge of the animal kingdom.

Although it is quite easy to laugh awkwardly along with Acting the Goat, the production is definitely lacking in slickness- many of the sketches are simply not funny enough to forgive the uncomfortable sound and lighting, and the rocky transitions between sketches.