The cast of Big Brass initially makes a big joke about being amateur. The set of their Pilch studio show vaguely resembles a collection of washing lines; their entrance is a farce based around technical incompetence; a couple of sketches become parodies of their own form. Clearly the trio (clad in mismatched stripy t-shirts) were more than prepared to make fun of themselves. Luckily, with a wealth of experience between them, it’s pretty clear that we were in competent hands. The show is fast paced, unconventional, cutting and very funny.
At the heart of this is the quality of the writing. The sketches are varied, encompassing slapstick, spoof, dark humour and cringe-worthy sequences that had members of the audience hiding behind their hands. The show is also well arranged, getting the most out of the time spent on stage. The shorter scenarios at the start evolve effortlessly into longer sketches and as a result the show never felt repetitive; I was constantly wondering what the next scene would involve.
This unpredictability is one of the troupe’s key strengths, and they are at their best when it is found within individual sketches. Barney Iley, Nick Davies and David Meredith delight in undermining your expectations. Just when you think you know where it’s all heading, there will be a twist; the punch line won’t be what you expected. The most original sketches verged on genius, making it impossible to look away. It’s inevitably a problem with a sketch show, but a couple of the cruder sketches felt a little unexciting by comparison, perhaps even slightly lazy.
However, there’s enough material that makes the most of the performers’ talents. Iley and Davies worked well, especially when performing within a group, but of the three, Meredith stood out, adapting himself well to the wide range of situations encountered in the show. Showing off his combined comic and musical talents, there were times when he didn’t even need to speak to have the audience in fits of laughter: his facial expression and timing were more than enough.
So, overall it was entertaining, and at best hilarious. The talented performers of Big Brass are certainly worth a look. The type of humour may not be to everybody’s taste, but at the least it will make you smile and, if the reaction of the audience was anything to go by, might have you guffawing by the end.
PHOTO/ Will Truefitt