Confession: I’m not really a fan of sketch comedy. It’s so difficult to get right; by its nature it feels disjointed; following in the footsteps of Monty Python, The Fast Show, Goodness Gracious Me et al is no mean feat. There are lots of reasons I don’t watch a lot of sketch comedy. And yet…
Steen Raskopoulos has knitted together a fantastic world of oddballs and darkness, which flows as smoothly as the sun lotion on Bondai beach. Fittingly so, because once everyone has finished throwing scrunched up paper balls into the basketball hoop around his supply teacher character’s neck (what better way to introduce yourself than encourage people to throw things at you?), Raskopoulos gets a couple of women and a man to rub sunscreen into his back. It’s definitely awkward, but it (un)settles everyone in nicely for an hour of experiments, off-beat sketches and interaction.
You are constantly on your toes, such is the unpredictability of this act. Raskopoulos becomes an array of characters, from the film-review-singing Greek orthodox priest, to R&B singers who want to teach their loyal fans to think for themselves. They’re all facing their own inner turmoil; many of them use the audience to bounce off, like when Raskopoulos spends a great deal of time trying to explain to one woman that she should “literally” look under her chair. Literally. Even when it’s not quite clear what Raskopoulos wants from his audience, the fun is in him trying to encourage them without giving the game away.
The interaction always looms, but it’s never too uncomfortable for anyone to refuse. In fact, many audience members really immerse themselves in the roles Raskopoulos bestows on them, with the storytime section drawing massive laughs even when the answers to the prompts fall short of expectation. “This is the story of the haunted…” “And the beast?”
Between each sketch we hear a snippet of what may be Raskopoulos’s internal monologue, which plays out like a radio infomercial for his life. An authoritative voiceover at the beginning asks Raskopoulos why he’s trying to pass off a box of crayons as a CV. Who hasn’t asked that question about themselves?
Throughout the show runs the storyline of Toby Zogamo: the no-holds-barred businessman, to whom commerce is everything, and his naïve son who is waiting patiently for his father to pick him up from school. The moments spent with the son are actually quite sad, as Raskopoulos transforms into the character of Timmy, biting his lips, playing with the straps on his rucksack. The last in the sequence is particularly dark, and leaving the show I did have to remind myself that it was just one man instilling such black humour so vividly.
The show ends with Raskopoulos leading a disco dance involving a stage full of willing participants, which I have to say I was gladly a part of. It was a brilliant end to the show: Raskopoulos motionless, everyone else just dancing away into the night. And the whole crowd was clapping along at the end, usually the surest sign that you’ve done a sterling job.