Joycelyn Li

Presented through a mix of straight stand-up, physical sketches and musical interludes, None Taken is Lotte Hondebrink’s one-woman, one-hour show about moving from the Netherlands to the UK, her calamitous love life, and her study-related struggles. What follows is a fun though slightly rough-around-the-edges performance with plenty of relatable content.

There were some great moments in this show, with a lot of potential for further development. The musical comedy was unique and impressive; Hondebrink has a great voice and a knack for setting amusing narratives to song. There is a mock-classical-meets-Tim Minchin flavour to these pieces which is especially entertaining, and the song about her dissertation process was the high point of the show, with witty lyrics and well-composed variations of pace.

The more political points were a little forced and under-attended

Other than when she is behind the keyboard, Hondebrink is at her best in caricature: impersonating Dutch brides, her mother’s disdain of her love life, and her own epiphany upon overcoming the language barrier. In these moments, her physicality and expressions take on an intensity which gives the sketches a deliberate and comic unreality. This is particularly apparent in contrast to the honest approach Hondebrink adopts in the set’s overarching conceit, in which she is essentially herself: a graduating student who has taken the leap of writing an hour-long comedy show about Cambridge, crushes, and culture clashes.

Hondebrink’s Dutch directness is refreshing but perhaps too pervasive; some moments which could have been wry smiles were a touch blunt, especially for a British audience. To make self-deprecating jokes about your autism, for example, you have to frame it in such a way that the audience feels comfortable laughing, and Hondebrink did not quite succeed in putting the audience at ease before diving in. Similarly, generalisations about student life were not backed up (where an amusing anecdote might have proven the point and injected more humour) and certain of the more political points were a little forced and under-attended.

In fact, a couple of the sketches seemed incongruous with Hondebrink’s open assertion of feminism. I do not doubt that Hondebrink cares about the issues she raised, but I felt the gender subversion was not overdone enough to be obviously comic (in the song about pursuing a ‘strapping lad’), and the sketch of the non-caffeinated morning-after seemed to play into stereotypes of the woman as a monster who must be appeased, even though the physical comedy here was good in itself.

None Taken’s musical comedy, caricatures, and physicality were all resounding successes that reveal Hondebrink’s potential as a comedian

These issues are minor, and may be largely interpretive, but they can mean that otherwise funny moments flop because the audience is unsure whether they should allow themselves to laugh. I think acknowledging the contentious or problematic points, and making clear that they are tongue-in-cheek, would have helped here. Of course, this requires a tricky rhetorical balancing act, and in a song this is especially hard to do – not least because Hondebrink sings so fast you can almost miss the subtler points – but in a sketch it can be accommodated by the lead-in, and occasionally I felt such opportunities were missed.

The main thing Hondebrink was lacking was sharpness in her framing structure; the physical and musical sketches were mostly successful, but the patter in between often fell slightly flat, having an air of being over-rehearsed or occasionally irrelevant. Toeing the line between polish and stagnation is the most difficult aspect of stand up comedy, and Hondebrink only just fell short of the sophistication which would have taken the show up a level. It was a shame, because I did enjoy the set on the whole.


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It is also worth remembering that student stand-up shows, while recently enjoying a wealth of good slots in Cambridge theatre, are works in progress. They are an opportunity for rising comics to test their material in front of a live audience, and that to hold None Taken to a professional standard is to misunderstand the scene. Hondebrink’s show needs some refinement, but there is plenty of material here that is genuinely funny, and even if some of the jokes didn’t quite land she still managed to maintain a light-hearted mood and keep the audience on her side.

None Taken’s musical comedy, caricatures, and physicality were all resounding successes that reveal Hondebrink’s potential as a comedian. The show as a whole is an enjoyable hour of comedy which, while not always as sharp as it could be, is nonetheless a welcome break from revision with many funny moments.

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