Leaf is a fast-paced student sketch show that sows the seeds of comic ideas, but struggles to take root. With an enthusiastic band of performers, who throw their all into the eclectic mash of scenes (or are they daydreams?), it drifts somewhat in the direction of absurdism – but struggles to sustain its momentum and fails to land.
We see a variety of whimsical and quirky scenes come to life, from double-crossing detectives, to “period” dramas and French discotheques. There are bursts of playfulness on display and laughs peppered throughout, but as a whole it struggled to consistently keep the audience on board.
Whether the title is picked at random, or if it exists as a metaphor for the show's meandering protagonist Mark, is unclear. There is a nice concept here of threading a narrative about Mark's day around a series of intermittent flash-flood sketches. The problem I have is that Mark's character isn't realised enough to make him the main focal point; sure, he's a chemical engineer, likes chess and lives with his mother, but there isn't much else to him. That's despite the actor's best efforts to carry the story – which ebbs and flows, intermingling with the recurring sketches and the characters imprisoned within them, but needs a bit more of an edge to have a bigger impact.
The cast spend the show dashing on and off stage, changing costumes at record-breaking speed. There is a lot of energy invested in the piece; it's hard to keep up with at times, and some of the snappier, better, weirder pieces were overshadowed by quite a lot of safe, derivative jokes, an over-reliance on stripping off and stock-stereotypical accents. Some of it works though: bus-stop lady was a personal highlight, and I also enjoyed the peas, the miserable potato, and the trees scene – although some of the tree puns were a little wooden!
I feel the cast here are a talented and versatile group of actors, who are under-selling themselves with the material. There is potential here if the group are willing to take things a step further, and expand on their absurdist influences. But as it stands, if this is (as the blurb suggests) the bastard child of Monty Python and The Mighty Boosh, I think we might need a DNA test.