Review: Strange Bedfellows

Elsa Maishman 27 April 2016

Strange Bedfellows features all the hallmarks of a Cambridge two-person sketch show: strong chemistry, intelligent writing, a smattering of corpsing, wilfully awkward delivery, meta jokes and the fizzling out of sketches which no-one ever seems to know how to end.

Jack Needham and Sam Knights have promising talent and work very well together. Knights provides the energy of the pair – a more convincing actor, he throws himself wholeheartedly into every role with a hilarious physicality. Needham compliments this perfectly with his calmer, deadpan style.

The writing is for the most part clever and original, if let down somewhat by the more classic reserves- including a pun so obvious that it was thwarted by the audience volunteer tasked with delivering the punchline.

Sam Knights took this audience insurrection in his stride however, and used the opportunity to show off his ability to improvise and think on his feet.

Knights has a fantastically expressive face, and the power to solicit a reaction with even the smallest of gestures. He has that rare comedic ability to hold the audience in his hand, bringing us with him in fits of laughter as he draws out even the most utterly ridiculous of monologues. Jack Needham could be forgiven for corpsing during the longest of these soliloquies, as not even the most stony-faced of audience members could have refrained from laughter when met with Sam Knights’ absurd hilarity.

The show’s biggest let-down is its endings. There were only two or three sketches that maintained their momentum until the end; most trailed off on a mediocre punchline, which was a shame as they lost their well-earned momentum. It was the shorter, sharper sketches that ended the most punchily and had the best effect.

There were also some stumbled lines, and Needham particularly struggled through monologues. The two performers gave the impression of not having much experience of performing in such a small sketch show. They were slightly awkward in their address of the audience, and at times lacked the energy necessary for two people to fill a stage on their own.

The set, however, was quite frankly beautiful. A simple display of crumpled newspapers allowed the audience to focus on the projection onto the back walls which accompanied the sketches. It can be risky for a show to be so utterly reliant on technology, and I’ve seen this kind of thing go horribly wrong in the past. However, in this case it worked perfectly and created a clever and often hilarious backdrop to the show.

Despite some flaws, this is a clever and at times hilarious show, which is definitely one to watch.