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Comic Relapse is that rare thing, a show featuring original comedy writing. Started by a prominent group of Lichfield thesps to raise dosh for Comic Relief this show’s gone on to become a staple feature of the theatre year.
I first had the good fortune to catch the show in 2007 and I’ve regretted not being able to see them since so jumped at the chance to view this round-up of the best of five years’ worth of clever sketches. The result was a beguiling mix of sophistication and silliness.
No targets are safe from these writers and performers; Star Wars, the preciousness of The Lord of the Rings, Welsh nationalists, game show contestants (“You’re pretty, but you’re thick!”). There’s masses of original stuff. I especially loved the over-competitive Geordie tooth fairies, and the Convention for Couples Who Finish Each Other’s Sentences.
This crew have a keen ear for word play of all kinds as evidenced by the philosophical wrangling during the planning of the Italian Job, nuclear-loving politicians hijacking the ecology lobby and I laughed out loud as rival skincare demonstrators made more and more outrageous claims for their useless products, especially Sarah Stanley’s “Because y’am wurth it!”
Other highlights were Chris Stanley and Ian Davies’ absurd and beautifully imitated Thunderbirds puppets looking for more TV work, the politician who just won’t get off his soapbox (Ian Parkes), and the posh local pupils with a newly-hip teacher (Dave Stonehouse) who’s “down with the kids”.
My favourite revival was Rose Bodger’s earnest television gardener giving advice on growing (and using) a range of increasingly suggestive fruit and veg. Just one disappointment – what’s happened to Chris Stanley’s unforgettable Cillit Bang man? Never mind, he made up for it with a personalised joke for the humble reviewer.
Last time I reckoned this was better than any TV on a Saturday night. Three years on it’s truer than ever, in fact it’s now almost impossible to find anything that crosses the intelligence threshold. Network programmers might like to note that a joke about the iambic pentameter got the biggest laugh of the night. Says a lot about Lichfield, if you ask me. Keep it up, Fresh Grounders, keep it up.
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