Review: Disposables: A Sketch Show

Joe Richards 9 March 2017

Disposables: A Sketch Show subtly drew on the absurdities that characterise the state of the world in 2017, delivering a thoroughly entertaining, zany and eclectic range of sketches. While the humour of the opening sketches derived primarily from idiosyncratic absurdist scenarios (such as an awkward bus flirtation concluded by a cupcake facial), the later sketches delved increasingly into rather pointed explorations of contemporary social, political and popular issues. Two sketches couldn’t help but make use of the comic material gifted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in its painful gaffe of announcing La La Land instead of Moonlight as Best Picture.

Similarly drawing laughs from a sense of contemporary resonance were sketches which poked fun at the hypocrisy of the snow-flake generation. Most prominently, a sketch of two new mothers trying to outdo the other in their gender-fluid politically-correct parenting style, not only revealed the ironic extent to which their efforts constrained the identities of their children (having already decided they have come out while still in prams), but the hypocrisy of this new age parenting – laid bare in the punch line that the decision to send their child to a state school was the one that was too far. Similarly piquant, and attending to the counter-current to political correctness – the increasing sense of animosity and racism that has given rise to the worrying ascendency of the alt right – was the sketch in which an employee is questioned by superiors for not having an attitude that is “2017” enough – one characterised by unapologetic xenophobia and homophobia that induces the superiors to “fire the gay”.

The witty writing was only one of the shows many strengths. Its four-member strong cast were all extremely versatile not only in the variety of roles they played (often gender-inverted) but their comic timing, facial expressions and physicality all made for excellent performances. The arrangement of the sketches and their pace was thoughtful, so that audience reaction built up from a steady chuckle to increasingly belly-laugh humour echoing through Pembroke’s New Cellars. Also extremely effective in its execution, and greatly contributing to the enjoyment of the show was the live music provided by Toby Marlow on the keyboard. Live music is always a pleasure in itself, but the musical interludes not only effectively bridged the gap in between sketches but added to the humour itself with the jingles and tunes played being matched to the comic material – with Christmas jingles following a sketch on a father self-interestedly buying Christmas presents for his children, and a gag involving a farmer confronting his endearingly puppy-like turkey before Thanksgiving followed by “Old McDonald had a farm”.

On the whole, the show extremely enjoyable – but while many of the sketches built towards a central and final punchline – such as the sketch in which a seemingly awkward first date encounter is subverted by the final line “so what makes you think you’re qualified for this job?” – the audience was not allowed to fully savour the humour due to blackouts in the lighting cues which were too sudden, and rather jarring. Additionally, the gathering of the ‘Pixford Amateur Photography Society’ was not a unified framing device; while some sketches related well to the scenario, others related only tangentially, and some not at all. Nevertheless, for a sketch show characterised by a sense of the idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies of the present climate, the gathering of the ‘Pixford Amateur Photography Society’ felt appropriate in its almost hipster eccentricity.

Disregarding the lighting cues and a questionable framing device, the show not only made for a great evening out, but constituted that valuable kind of comedy that inconspicuously pokes holes at the social fabric. Just as the sketches varied in length, their material oscillated between offering unadulterated humorous relief in scone-based gags, to subtly leading the audience towards contemplating more serious undercurrents of contemporary significance.