23, Please: The Sketch Show That Never Was is one of many sketch shows you will find at the Fringe written and performed by university students. As is often the case, that means it’s unpolished and sometimes immature, but by the same token it has an infectious energy and a pure, silly sense of fun. It may not stand out from the crowded field, but it doesn’t need to in order to be entertaining.
A few of the shorter sketches are pure brilliance – centring around a single, well-delivered pun. Some of the longer ones drag on a bit, however, and it seems that this troupe has fallen prey to the common sketch show affliction of not ending sketches on time. Some finish beautifully, but the majority continue on after the punchline, or are marred by a lack of confidence or poor delivery. Like most sketch shows, there are some bad sketches among the good: skits that are just the wrong side of nonsensical to be funny, but these are thankfully not too frequent.
The characterisation is hilarious in one or two places, but more often than not, it’s unsophisticated and unconvincing. However, any over-acting is made up for by the energy and evident enjoyment the three performers bring to each sketch. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and moments of improvisation and shameless corpsing are endearing rather than unprofessional.
The performers give 100% to every sketch, and the energy is impressively maintained to the very end. The minuscule stage of C Nova’s Studio 5 makes for a difficult venue, as the performers must work within a tiny space and are very close to the audience’s scrutiny. The comedians burst out of the space and into the audience on more than one occasion, but they do so in a way that seems chaotic and fun rather than overbearing.
The idea that the show ‘never happened’ flits through only a couple of sketches, providing nothing more than the show’s name. The sketches don’t flow into each other with any kind of cohesion and are a diverse mess, held loosely together by the introduction. This, in itself, is no problem – but I can’t help feeling that the show would have been better off embracing its lack of cohesion rather than trying to stick to an unconvincing premise.
So 23, Please: The Sketch Show That Never Was is far from perfect, but it fits the bill exactly and is very good fun. Some of the sketches are wacky and unexplained – but joyfully so. The performers are very obviously enjoying themselves, and the sense of fun is infectious, leading to a very enjoyable hour.