I have always wanted to visit Babylon, but little did I know that my first time would be to watch KEITH’s comedy ‘Table for One’ – and it was not, altogether, a terrible first impression. Some jokes resulted in raucous laughter, some elicited pitying mumbles, and others left tumbleweed moments with looks of derision from audience members. But all in all, ‘Table for One’, whilst it certainly had its ups and downs, was rather amusing, and had many audience members rolling on the sticky floors of Babylon with laughter.
Before the show had even begun the audience were filled with good humour. As people kept flooding in, and in, and in – one could not help but wonder whether you were going to stare at the backs of heads for 60 minutes. But as the track of ‘The Final Countdown’ drew to a close, the five actors ran onto the stage, instantly engaging the audience with a rap. Setting up an atmosphere of utter franticness, this complemented the rest of the piece, as the five actors would attempt to deliver 55 (what the significance of this number is, I know not) sketches in 60 minutes. It takes no mathematician to work out that this is (roughly) a sketch a minute – which often left me totally bamboozled. Indeed, this did work, at times – but it was occasionally difficult to keep up with, made worse by the fact that the actors were sometimes rather difficult to hear. But despite this the show did not fail to entertain, and the franticness did (somewhat) enhance the comic effect (although at times I did want to cry out ‘less is more’).
The contents of the jokes were well adapted to popular culture, with the hilarious retelling of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ for ‘Hansel and Greta’, a scandalous reference to Gerry McCann, and light prods made towards Harvey Weinstein. The comedy did not fail to be relevant, especially in its deliverance of black comedy. But I did, nonetheless, want to see more references to things prevalent in the present day, the reference to the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 being six years old (is it that long ago already?) Indeed, there were many lost opportunities to make references to the UK’s political climate, Coronavirus, ‘Megxit’, Prince Andrew – all of which would have been well adapted to their comic style of making light of serious incidents. Although, at times, the jokes sometimes went too deep into the realms of black comedy – especially with the reference to Freddie Mercury’s death. But these awkward incidents were counterbalanced by moments of utter hilarity, from the Shakespearean ‘sucketh dicketh’ sketch, to the literal interpretation of ‘taking the piss’ – one could not help but admire the wit behind the comedy.
For me the standout performers were Emily Oliver and Gayaneh Vlieghe, whose comedic expressions led the show. Oliver’s melodramatic depiction of her various personas never failed to amuse, from her excessive enunciation as she tried to speak to a ‘baby’, to her portrayal of the sexual genie with her hilarious gestures – one could not help but burst out laughing whenever she was in character. Vlieghe, in contrast, was subtler in her comic style to Oliver’s melodrama, but she was, nonetheless, equally funny. Oftentimes her simple expressions reminded one of the sitcom ‘Miranda’. But the most amusing moment was her portrayal of the dramatic emotional breakdown playing a game of ‘Never have I ever’, something which had the audience in stitches precisely because it was, well, rather relatable. But credit must also be given to the hilarious sexual comedy of Mungo Russell, whose depiction of the aroused dog to the euphemistic musical instrument references (the ‘special trombone’ being the real high point), delivered with sensual expressions and looks out to the audience, was utterly entertaining. Equally was his portrayal of the German tutor with his amusing accent and melodramatic curdling of expression when his student mentions the dates from 1914-1947. In the words of John Cleese in ‘Faulty Towers’ – ‘Don’t mention the war!’
Fergus Carver also deserves much praise – with his blackouts and music between scenes delivered to perfect comic timing. The music never failed to amuse, always underlining the punchline from the sketch before, making it all the more funny. From Donny Osmond’s ‘Puppy love’ to Britney Spears’ ‘Oops…I did it again’ – the music tipped the audience’s laughter over the edge – a true complement to Carver’s commendable comic timing.
KEITH’s ‘Table for One’ was, then, rather hilarious – and whilst some jokes did fly over my head faster than a Boeing 747, there can be no doubt that the audience left the club of Babylon feeling far more jolly than they came in.
By Josh Goodwin
Photograph by Fergus Carver. Poster design by Anna Fennell.