Reviewer: Laura Maley
Sketch comedy pair Cardinal Burns prove their TV success is deserved in a pared down stage show at The Lowry on their first UK tour. Familiar to many through two TV series, first on E4 then moving to Channel 4, the duo – Seb Cardinal and Dustin Demri-Burns – won three prizes at the British Comedy Awards on the strength of their first series in 2012 and were nominated for a BAFTA in 2013.
Much of the comedy in The Lowry’s Quays Theatre tonight comes in the shape of fairly everyday, recognisable, characters and their interaction together in often mundane situations, rather than relying on grotesques or overt stereotyping (though there is a smidgen of that).
One of the first sketches is a great example of that, as geeky unassuming insurance workers Howard and Roger recount falling in love at a conference in Hove. There’s no shock or outrageous line, the comedy is all in the couple’s interaction.
Most of the audience are evidently fans of the duo’s two TV series, as many characters are greeted enthusiastically whether on sight or by a piece of music (or both, in the case of the reality TV parodyYoung Dreams), or by hearing the accents as the pair start speaking. Some of the weaker sketches definitely benefit from the audience’s prior experience of them, and any newcomers toCardinal Burnsshould find enough to appreciate on this tour.
Surprisingly there is no place on this tour for Banksy – one of their most famous characters, parodying the artist as a cautious suburban man in slacks who gets his materials from Homebase. Other TV favourites are here though, including a grand finale of two lusty Turkish taxi drivers as 1980s poodle perm-sporting rockers singing about hatchbacks and TomToms.
There’s plenty of clever unexpectedness: two camp ghost hunters roam the auditorium in total darkness, building to a genuinely scary conclusion; a pair of French comics argue over use of the words ‘sketch’ and ‘skit’ and present a wonderfully surreal sketch/skit featuring an erotically-charged potato. One of the most popular sketches sees Burns auditioning for a fizzy drink advert, in which director Cardinal demands a series of ever more ridiculous simultaneous moods and actions: aloofness, nostalgia, thirst, and being assaulted by a giant hawk. A favourite of this reviewer is ‘I Know Your Name’ in which a shop worker is interviewed as if he were an A-list actor. Perfectly observed from those earnest celebrity interviews we’ve all seen, the writing is matched by Seb Cardinal’s fawning manner asking, in awe, “Your CV says that you ‘work well as an individual and as part of team’. How is that even possible?”
The translation for any sketch show from TV to stage can be tricky to achieve successfully. On their TV series, Cardinal &Burns make great use of costumes and locations. The stage version doesn’t entirely do away with props (a jacket here, a wig there) and as a result the show is able to move along at a really good pace. The audience are left with no doubt, thanks to good writing and performances, thatCardinal Burns’appeal is not a case of style over substance.
Reviewed on 4 October 2014.