Review: The 23 Hour Sketch Show Bonanza

Pippa Smith 17 November 2016

Five teams of Cambridge’s finest comedic talent were given 23 hours to produce a 10 minute sketch show. With themes of love, adventure, destruction, discovery and growth, along with a number of ‘challenges’ by the two bewilderingly energetic hosts, the stage was set for an evening of innovation and mirth.

The result was a well-executed, vibrant hour of comedy. As was to be expected, much of the material was a little rough-around-the-edges and would have benefitted from more time and attention – the one thing the teams obviously did not have. With this in mind, the range of humour and topics covered within the sketches was certainly impressive, with highlights including a glimpse into the private lives of the Beatles and a ‘massive’ re-imagining of Planet Earth II. The theme for each show worked well, and allowed the teams a fair amount of creative space within a broad topic.

The biggest stumbling blocks for content were in fact the challenges each group were set, with some formats, such as mime or word-drops feeling awkward and shoe-horned in. This often left the audience confused, and seemed at odds with the other material in each sketch show. This said, the teams were not helped out by the audience – aside from a few particularly vocal individuals, they were far from responsive. A freer rein from the organisers might improve a subsequent outing of the bonanza – while the challenges were fun, they jarred against the creativity seen in the rest of the show.

Unsurprisingly, there were pacing issues within each 10 minute slot, with some sketches meandering into silence and others cut off before they could develop fully: the most successful teams were those that found a happy medium between lengthy sketches and quick pun-based skits. Again, this is something that would have improved with time, and it seems unkind to be too critical. What was at times lacking in content was made up for by very strong and professional performances from every single participant, giving the night a feel of a mid-run show rather than a one-off.

Disregarding the challenges and pacing issues, the bonanza was a highly enjoyable evening of sketch show comedy, notable most for the inventiveness of the participants. The general quality was very high, given the time constraint imposed, and gave a tantalising look at the future of the Cambridge student comedy scene.