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  • Chris O'Rourke

An Evening With Mere Mortals

An Evening With Mere Mortals. Image by Matthew Williamson


They say everything comes back in style eventually, if you hang around long enough. An Evening With Mere Mortals proves to be a case in point. The revue, a sketch show format popular between the 60s and 80s, saw The Oxford Revue, Cambridge Footlights and Beyond the Fringe launch the careers of many comedians who became household names. Fry and Laurie, French and Saunders, Moore and Cook, as well as writers like Alan Bennett found their footing in student revues where the only limit was that of comic imagination. Everything was permissible, everything possible, so long as the sketch was funny. In that same spirit of irreverent playfulness An Evening With Mere Mortals offers two back to back sketches parodying blockbuster cinema in which nonsense is the only thing that makes sense. Funny, reverently irreverent (perhaps a little too reverent), this all male outfit of Dan Monaghan, Dylan Tonge Jones, Jack Murphy and Kieran Roche mine movie and TV cliches, delivering lashings of laughs and a breathe of fresh air.

Following an overly serious introduction, the first instalment, the thriller Stjälkar, sees Kafka meet Eraserhead as the fate of furniture forces the world to the brink of ruination. Leading corporate flatpackers, in their battle against bespoke artisans, to develop a secret weapon. Meanwhile, a lone and lonely civil servant falls in love with tragic consequences. In contrast, the action packed Inbound sees Rambo meet Raiders of the Lost Ark meet The Boys From Brazil for some high octane violence whose tagline could read This Show Kills Fascists.

An Evening With Mere Mortals. Image by Matthew Williamson

Ironically, if Mere Mortals’ greatest strength lies in their imaginatively going wild, it also leads to their main weakness. Catching knives, or flashing a red bra, mayhem proves utterly marvellous. Yet too often they rein their own chaos in, tipping the balance by underplaying the comic and overplaying the set-up. Take the opening; its mock self-seriousness bordering too much on the serious rather than mockery, or on exploiting comic potential. Less Crypt Keeper and more Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone, a narrator sets up the story with little by way of comic engagement. The Twilight Zone thrived on the possibility its tales might be true. An Evening With Mere Mortals could never be true, not even in a universe written by Spike Milligan. In fairness, narration does get funnier as the show progresses.

If conceptual wild, (though it could go wilder, and broader), textually it’s never consistently wild or clever enough. Physically though, An Evening With Mere Mortals is a joy to watch. Their hilarious theatrical stylings separating Mere Mortals from other sketch artists such as Foil, Arms and Hog. Flying helicopters to international locations, including Dublin:UK, fighting the Yakuza and one eyed killers, thriving on murder, mayhem, and moments of wild passionate sex (you probably shouldn’t eat beforehand), it might look as if it's all being made up as they go along. But the precision, timing, the clever use of lighting and props mean little is being left to chance.

An Evening With Mere Mortals. Image by Matthew Williamson

In a climate of corporate theatre making where seriousness and success are often the measure of everything, four lunatics deciding to have fun for the sheer hell of having fun is a much needed antidote. Liberating play and playfulness from theatrical stuffiness, An Evening With Mere Mortals fries bigger fish than just giving you a belly full of laughs. Fast, frenzied, frenetic, at its best An Evening With Mere Mortals is a rollercoaster of laughs and cleverness. One that grows in comic confidence with each passing gag.

An Evening With Mere Mortals runs at Smock Alley Theatre until January 21.

For more information visit Smock Alley Theatre


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