“The theme also proves fruitful for the writers: particular highlights include an all-too-personal Alexa, a Black Mirror pastiche and the horrors of a theatre studies BA”Seagulls COmpany

I have often been told that I am great to have at a comedy gig because I am an easy laugh, but at Seagulls I found myself surrounded by spectators just as audibly appreciative as myself. Although this may be in part attributed to the free wine, the comedy on offer in Pembroke New Cellars comedy can speak for itself without social lubricant*. Seagulls: A Sketch Show aims to skewer the more ridiculous tropes of millennial life by “celebrating the silliness of our generation”. Based on the public imagination of a generation in love with themselves, technology and Snapchat filters, the team has put together a witty series of well-performed sketches which celebrates exactly that.

Leo Reich’s direction of the piece is clear and effective; from the consistent avocado emoji-style branding, to the excellent throwback playlist, this is obviously a production with a clear aim. The sketches are rarely tangential, although a couple of the shorter, cheaper gags such as the Superman sketch strayed from the theme and did not feel as fitting. The set is built for practicality, but the aforementioned avocado art is a beautifully executed visual reminder of the premise. Both sound and lights are well-coordinated with the sketches, and the result is a slick piece with high production value.

The theme also proves fruitful for the writers: particular highlights include an all-too-personal Alexa, a Black Mirror pastiche and the horrors of a theatre studies BA. The material demands strong characterisation work, pulling on elements of pop culture that the millennial audience experiences intimately. Angela Channell, Jamie Bisping and Will Owen are a formidable trio in this regard; each has an individual style brought out in the writing and casting, each effectively capturing elements of the stereotypical media portrayal of millennials. Channell rarely plays the straight-woman, and the show feels balanced in the share of stage time.

The structure of the show lends itself to the showcase of the writing and comedic talent. The sketch order and pacing are clearly well thought-through, with an effective mix of long and short group sketches, monologues and narration. Each actor’s monologue is a highlight in showing their diversity and skill. Owen’s druggie posh-boy is magnificently mockable, portrayed in his voice and character work, Channell’s clever wannabe millennial secretary is a clever take on the theme, and Bisping’s careful physical tricks elevate his portrayal of the ‘ambitious’ millennial. Throughout, Channell is at her best in moments of character-work, showcasing the most diversity of roles with great skill. Richard Curtis films will never be the same for me again: her work in this sketch really carries the moment. Her portrayal of Jesus is also particularly funny: her characterisation here really shines.

Owen is a stand-out both in his more camp moments, such as the theatre studies sketch, and in careful physicality. Narcotics consumption is the common theme to his starring performances, but who are we to judge? Owen has a naturally easy stage presence, open and relatable which works well to set the audience at ease. Cutting through this, Bisping brings a fantastic energy to the trio; both in voice work and physicality, especially in his facial expressiveness. His manic personae are well timed and genuinely hilarious. Occasionally, the pacing of line delivery from the performers is not quite as attuned to the audience as it could have been, and there were moments where uncertainty with the lines meant the sketches could have flowed a bit better. I am certain that as the three fully appreciate the material. this will come naturally to them.

I would have liked to have seen a few sketches with more nuance to them: although the variety of settings is stunning, ranging from the Tudors to a dystopian future without Ellen, most draw on very similar and occasionally superficial analysis of millennial tropes. Millennial stereotypes are well established in the public mind, so the strongest moments are the ones that really pull on unexpected interpretations of the theme (such as Theresa May’s Instagram). I would have loved to have seen more of these moments: it would have been interesting to have some comedic interpretation of current issues facing millennials, or aspects of life not merely tied to phones. In terms of structure, nearly every sketch ends with a subversion line, making them occasionally predictable. Although this works a lot of the time, moments such as the end of the weatherman sketch would have worked just as well had it ended a few lines earlier. Having said this, the range of settings and performances in the show is varied and the tropes it does mock are very well executed.

This show is well-performed, with clever bit of silliness, and carefully crafted around a strong theme. The sense of direction, consistency of writing and ability of the performers make this production a great, warming evening out at the end of a long, cold term.

*Before you ask, this reviewer stayed sober for you all. Happy?

Seagulls: A Sketch Show is on until 7 March at Pembroke New Cellars

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