Sunday, February 14, 2021

VALENTINE’S SKETCH SHOW (Northern Comedy)****


By Sophie


Available until: Shows at 2pm, 5pm, 7pm and 9pm on 14th February, followed by shows at various times on 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th 18th and 19th February.

Northern Comedy’s Valentine’s Sketch Show consists of a number of sketches based around the theme of love. COVID restrictions mean that all the interactions must take place on Zoom, but Northern Comedy have managed to think of numerous stories to tell in which proximity is not only inessential but an important part of the scene.

The sketches vary in length, format and character. There are a number of dating videos from various characters you would probably prefer not to meet, much less date. There is a set of themed linked sketches on the subject of gift-giving and some longer sketches which are practically mini-plays; not so much a scene as a story.

The sketches are very enjoyable, interesting and clever. I wouldn’t say I really found them funny, but that’s arguably a great strength. Most comedy completely falls apart if you happen not to find it funny, but Valentine’s Sketch Show works either way. Most of the sketches fall more into the category of mild horror, a sort of: “I’m so glad I’m not you right now, but I’m really enjoying watching you!” sort of way. Others are actually rather sad and are a far more emotional (but intensely satisfying) experience than you would expect from something that’s described as a sketch show and they were actually my favourite scenes of all because I felt so invested in the characters and the story.

In other words, Valentine’s Sketch Show is considerably better than most of the sketch shows I’ve seen. It is very easy to imagine that the situations depicted in these sketches would be humorous to some people, but there is also a lot here to satisfy anyone who likes strong characterisation and interesting plots.

The situations are instantly comprehensible and instantly involving. Even if you haven’t personally been in those situations, the chances are that you’ve read about them or seen them onstage and on TV so they have an instant familiarity. The writing gets straight to the point of the sketch with no lengthy set-up scenes – you can learn everything you need to know simply from watching.

Part of the reason the sketches work so well is the quality of the acting. I did not watch it with a cast list so it wasn’t possible to make a note of who appeared in each sketch, but every single person I saw was excellent. The dating videos have a touch of exaggeration, but at the same time, the people seem real and it seems scarily likely that one day, someone could visit a dating site and come face to face with these people.

The relationships which are portrayed in the longer scenes also feel believable. Many are really adorable, especially the gay couple. Other couples have quite an alarming relationship which probably isn’t great for them, but it’s compelling viewing. Whether the writers are throwing you curve balls or driving you slowly but inexorably towards one of those car crash situations you can see coming but can’t stop, the sketches are great to watch, very enjoyable, and very well-directed by Shaun Chambers.

Perhaps best of all, if you do happen to be single or even just separated from the person you love, these aren’t the kind of sketches that would make you wish you weren’t alone. If anything, it’s rather the reverse! They’re fantastic to watch, but I think in staying single, I’m saving myself a lot of trouble.

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