Cambridge has a rich history of comedy duos. Be it Fry and Laurie, Armstrong and Miller, or even Mitchell and Webb, Cambridge’s theatre-going public would be within their rights to expect a lot from a stand-up show called Two by Two; would these seven duos be able to live up to my expectations, I wondered? Luckily, I was far from disappointed and enjoyed familiar faces such as Ania Magliano as much as an act from a pair of fresher comedians.
There was one exception to this: beyond offering a reliably comfortable interlude between each act, Harriet Fisher and Will Owen’s hosting did the overall quality of the show no favours. At one point, Fisher gave an off the cuff shout-out to her college wife which built to no comic purpose and suggested that the hosts just had to fill some time before the next act was ready. Although better than cold discomfort, the pair seemed sloppy and repeatedly talked over one another, further obscuring any well-thought-out jokes. That being said, it is easy to take a good set of comperes for granted and the ease with which these two managed the crowd should not go without due praise.
An anxious wave rippled around the room when our hosts announced a sketch by two freshers. Despite what could at a stretch be called hosting sabotage, the girls’ sketch intelligently parodied secondary-school staff hierarchies and deserved the raucous laughs it received. It was pleasing to see the act’s incorporation of the audience into the sketch, as the front row was placed where the lunch queue would have been. Similarly, Sophie Huskisson and Emil Sands’s shopping channel satire brought us back to our living room couches where we so often ruminate on exactly the thoughts their sketch wittily voices. However, having built up the dynamic of an incorporated spectator, the final act’s satire of gossiping women admittedly leaves us with the feeling that we are really just a bunch of Cambridge students laughing at women who think that the law does not exist in Duty Free shops.
This review would be incomplete without a special mention of Noah Geelan and Will Bicknell-Found’s unsettlingly brilliant parody. Donning absurd and embarrassing sporting garments, the pair adopt wounded fathers who thirst for the respect of their sons through issuing football trophies at a club award ceremony. The act’s genius is derived from its ambition and ability to sustain a sense unpredictability bursting with comic potential. The natural shift between apparently improvised dialogue into relevant application of Larkin’s ‘They fuck you up …’ leaves the act with no need to deploy a half-embarrassed self-awareness at times seen in other acts as a means to escape the discomfort of an under-polished performance. Where other acts need a few lines to warm the audience up, the immediacy of humour achieved by Geelan and Bicknell-Found betrays a rare commitment to an immersion in their performance.
It is a shame that Two by Two was a one-night stand. If you wanted to see the next famous Cambridge double act, or if you simply wanted an extra hour of laughter in your day, Two by Two was certainly the show to do it.