Brighton FringeComedyDramaReviewSouth East

BRIGHTON FRINGE: Blocked – Sweet Dukebox

Director: Scott Le Crass
Reviewer: Sophie Huggins

A blank stage except for a microphone, stool and bottle of water can only mean one thing: a stand-up show. However, Blocked attempts to twist with the audience’s expectations of a comedy routine, but whether this is successfully carried out is uncertain.

The one performer – Laura Curnick, with presence and charisma, plays comedienne Katie Parfitt, who is on tour with her husband Tony (apparently in the audience) performing her routine around the country about female expectations and her own long and futile road to motherhood. Her bitter jokes centre around the pain of living in a modern middle-class society where baby car stickers and smashed avocado are the top priorities on everyone’s lists. Despite the relevance, these jokes often fall flat and Curnick giggles in the absence of an audience reaction. Even when there are moments of laughter, Curnick speaks so quickly, there is no time for them to land; no freedom between the stage and the seats to breathe. The delivery of the lines is continual and mundane and although perhaps a true reflection of how the character feels repeating her jokes on different tours – this is the only way the audience can be communicated the story.

There are entertaining elements of multi-rolling in which Curnick applies various accents to embody all those around her she finds aggravating but all too soon it falls back into the repetitive style. Had this element been explored in more depth, a humorous and interesting concept could have emerged.

The premise itself is confusing: is this play is meant as a stand-up routine or as a play about a woman performing? As there is genuine audience interaction from drinking together to answering phones, it is set up that the audience is in the same space as the performer, in the same time zone. However, when addressing husband Tony – he isn’t in the audience, posing the question of convention. If the audience needs to believe an aspect of the play, the performer has to believe it even more for it to work.

The attempt to merge the two could have verged on being an interesting premise but there is a lack of honesty on all parts. Comedy often succeeds because there is a spontaneous, real relationship between performer and audience and by having the character perform multiple sets, this authenticity is removed. One phrase that leaps out from the play is “the best comedy comes from truth” and this is a key piece of advice that this show could definitely learn from.

Reviewed on 22 May 2017 | Image: Contributed  |  @brightonfringe

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