First things first, thankfully, the title of this show is false – in fact, I laughed more than twice within the first 30 seconds. The performers began by greeting the audience, before explaining that one of them was going to be chosen to play the next James Bond, and that the rest of the show was their audition. This provided a great thread throughout the show and the intermittent plot driven sketches ensured that the various skits didn’t become meaninglessly tied together – it seems they took the ‘bond’ in James Bond quite literally when creating this show.
Each performer was full of energy, giving the piece a well maintained lively and light-hearted atmosphere. This combined with the fantastic pacing and strategic pauses within sketches allowed for a very enjoyable experience for the audience. Some performers established their personas a little more successfully than others, with Bob Howat’s comedic bluntness and Ollie Taylor’s ability to play a huge range of characters from a northern woman on a night out, to distressed Dracula being my personal favourites. Daisy Hargreaves was also brilliant in her various roles, exhibiting the perfect level of commitment to each character without making it feel like she was trying to hard. There were areas where I felt some of the performers were forcing it slightly, making it feel like more of a pantomime-esque show at times. However, this was not a huge distraction, as by nature, this type of comedy show demands over the top performing in which the jokes are delivered to you on a silver platter. And as a lot of them relied on references to current popular culture, such as Love Island, Doctor Who and Veganism, the jokes were mostly well received with big laughs.
In regard to the individual sketches, some were certainly funnier than others. Here, I feel I should acknowledge the inherent subjectivity of comedy – what I may not have found funny, another audience member may have found hilarious. But, overall, there were sketches that were collectively more well received than others. Particular favourites of mine included the narrative of the stolen chicken hat which reappeared towards the end of the show in a very dramatic fashion involving sudden murder and comedic triumph. This skit, along with others, were funny simply because of how ridiculous they were. There was a great combination of absurdity and wit between the sketches that added to the energy of the piece, with the variation keeping the audience on their toes. Some sketches, however, were almost so ridiculous that they were lost on me. For instance, one skit involved the learning of a new language that was simply made up of ‘In The Night Garden’ references, where initially the translation of each word was ‘macca pacca’. I think here, and in various other moments, the audience’s reaction was one more of confusion and disbelief rather than laughter. I also felt a few of the cultural references such as the overly sexist stance taken in the James Bond sketch lacked originality – I think jokes about toxic masculinity are perhaps getting slightly outdated. On the whole, however, I must give credit where its due and commend the writers Benjamin Lycett and Jack Simmons for creating such a vast quantity of sketches that were so often witty or downright hilarious.
The moments of audience participation further elevated the quality and hilarity of the piece. On two occasions, an audience member became the focus of the sketch, which added an unexpected, improvised aspect to the show. The performers played off the audience members reactions very successfully, and their ability to deliver improvised witty remarks made their performances all the more impressive. Another element that added to the fun atmosphere, was the use of song snippets in between each sketch, in which the lyrics linked directly to the sketch that preceded it. This was a very clever touch, and once I noticed it, I enjoyed trying to guess what song was going to be used to allude to the current sketch.
You Only Laugh Twice is a show that is by the title itself greatly misunderstood, despite the performer’s own doubts, which were amusing in themselves. Overall, it was a great audience experience, very light-hearted and truly funny along the way. Each performer should be commended for their energy and ability to play a huge range of characters, with a whole variety of accents used throughout the show. None of them shied away from the challenging task of making people laugh and were committed on every level – even to the point where Taylor had to drink a disgusting concoction of vodka, gin and egg-white on stage. A great night of comedy that certainly left me laughing more than twice.
Featured Image: Credit to Thomas Tomlinson, with permission.