The Buttless Chaps are back: four performers, 18 sketches, and a touch of oddly hilarious German musical to finish. Given the success of their show Some Funny earlier this year, the company had a tough job in making their return as entertaining with More Funny, but judging by the audience’s warm reception they’ve managed to pull it off superbly.
Many of the sketches satirise and relate easily to student concerns – from the girl who receives the ‘Gap Year Experience’ (building walls and teaching children included) without stepping outside the travel agency to the ‘Clubbing’ sketch, containing as much awkward dancing as dialogue. ‘A Personal Statement’, which takes the idea of being personal to disturbingly psychoanalytical depths, also worked well. Although the show is abundant in absurdity (the ‘Huffenpongbladder’ sketch a case in point), often the most familiar scenes worked best, from the freshers’ week antics to the ridiculously modest student who claims to have done no work but in fact has been researching his topic for four years. The packed out BT Studio, the live jazz piano, and the thoughtfully minimalist use of props and lighting give the show a wonderfully improvisatory feel – added to by the backstage narrative that runs alongside the sketches, and cleverly creates a sense of unity as we move from piece to piece.
The group’s focus, however, is often broader than student life, with some pieces that are clearly meant as social commentaries. The production could perhaps have done with more of these: ‘Toy Story 4’ satirises wonderfully the replacement of imaginative play with the passivity demanded by the iPad, but some sketches lack this essential element of satire and are simply bizarre. The audience, however, found both types equally amusing. The highlight came at the end with ‘The Musical’, an absurd story about social injustice and love in mock-German, which was received particularly well – such lines as “ich habben ein dreamen” and “inter-racial love is still ein nish nish” sent up roars all round. As Will Hislop (who is both performer and co-writer/director) says, “every injustice needs a musical”.
Much of the group’s success comes from their physical command of the stage – not only is the dialogue sharp and witty, but the cast are not afraid to exploit the comic potential of bodily movement (the range of accents was also impressive without being cringy). Will Hislop’s ascent into the air on the shoulders of Barney Fishwick in the Dirty Dancing-esc finale was especially impressive. It’s a short run, so if you don’t want to miss out on German musicals, a lively atmosphere and a great deal of Funny then head down to BT.
More Funny is showing at the Burton Taylor studio until Saturday 23rd at 9.30pm – tickets available here. Wednesday and Friday are currently sold out.
PHOTO/ The Buttless Chaps