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BRIGHTON FRINGE: Low Effort Sketches: The First Effort (WIP), The Walrus

Reviewer: James Walsh

Clever, beautifully crafted sketches honed by a deceptively complex double-act.

Winners of Sketch-Off 2022, Low Effort Sketches is the disarmingly half-arsed nom de plume of Alice Wickersham and Andy Bucks, a geeky comedy duo who perform in the classic sketch style, but with a twist: their constant breaking of the fourth wall and downplaying of their performance heightens even these work-in-progress ideas to a hyperreal sense of lunacy.

Near the start, Wickersham, the straight man to Bucks’ funny man, explains that they can’t operate the lights without turning off all the lights in the entire pub, thus rendering the traditional end-of-sketch blackout an endearingly futile endeavour. They stick to it anyway, and this, along with their permanent meta-narrative on their own material, breaks up the show nicely.

There is a slightly strange mid-afternoon energy in the room, with a slight suspicion that this may be some audience members’ first ever brush with the rhythms of sketch comedy.

But after a slow start, and a mildly fluffed bus-related punchline, we are slowly drawn in by the careful writing and beautifully paced escalation of the sketches.

Really there are three Andys and three Alices here. There are the characters they play in the sketches – as the name suggests, accents and acting do not really feature, other than in one hilarious abortive French language exam.

Then there are the meta Andy-and-Alices, constantly commenting on their own characters, with Alice admonishing Andy’s flights of fancy and occasional tit obsessions.

Then there are the actual Andy and Alice, people you and I will never know.

There are so many ideas here, building up wonderfully to first rate first hour of material. Some sketches take twenty seconds, some are a little looser and are allowed to get a bit crazy; the pair’s love of language and the absurdity of cliche shines throughout. One sketch on mottos, for example, is that perfect dream: something both clever AND funny.

A shout out to Annabel on tech, too, whose voiceovers offer an alternative device for ending sketches and giving our beautifully matched double act something external to react to.

Quibbles here are minor, as befits talented writers and a clearly advertised work in progress show. More callbacks could work, as could a few more forays into the political. These are clearly very clever people, and the toying with gender and societal roles, and a very funny piss-take of office culture, suggest even more subversive takes must linger in their minds or notebooks.

Also the audience participation, here in the form of a very niche and enjoyable game of invagination, is something they are beautifully awkward and masterfully confident with, and I’d love to see more of this aspect of their craft developed in future.

We’re sent off into the late afternoon sun by a truly horrendous song, to mingle back into the ordinary world of Brighton hen and stag dos, with the thought that this sketch duo are very much the ones to watch.

Reviewed on 11/05/24

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