Set in a world where speaking out for comical effect has been banned – where the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg have seized control of the country – a student sketch group attempts to defy the law, by creating a loophole of a show centred around completely wordless skits.
This brave band of five tackle a number of situations where speech is not pivotal to the action, where awkwardness and confusion rule over human interaction. There is a lot of scope here – and while it is a nice idea, which cleverly hi-jacks the misleading far-right campaign to “preserve free speech”, not quite enough is done with this concept. Many of the sketches resort to frenetic flashes of contemporary dance in place of a punchline, and there isn't much in the way of a call back to the authoritarian rules of this world laid out in the opening video.
There is some good use of audio recordings and physicality to carry the show. There are interesting ideas and laugh-out-loud moments throughout, but not really enough to sustain an hour, with some of the scenes feeling a bit half-finished.
And although the group are full of an infectious happy-go-lucky charm, much of the cast play fairly interchangeable roles. It would be nice to see more distinctive characterisation – similar to that we get from the stand-out fool of the troupe, who pops up in moments of comedic relief (including a rather genius cameo appearance as a human reproductive organ, which is easily the highlight of the show).
Speechless is an enjoyable hour of accessible sketch comedy, and it is admirable that this group are trying something different to the classic and often tired student sketch format. It just needs a bit more experimentation and commitment to the concept to really pull it off.