Writer: Phil Wang, Jason Forbes, George Fouracres
Reviewer: Fergus Morgan
Phil Wang, Jason Forbes and George Fouracres, alias Daphne, Britain’s most ethnically diverse sketch group, turned heads at last year’s festival with their debut show, a subversive, intelligent and thoroughly fresh hour of eclectic, scripted silliness. Their second show, imaginatively titled Daphne’s Second Show, is a convincing follow-up, capturing the same laid-back, knockabout charm but discovering an engaging social radar as well.
Daphne’s style of sketch comedy largely eschews gag-filled, laugh-a-minute sketches in favour of slow-burners, big punchlines and character-based work. It’s atestament to all three performers’ on stage charisma that, despite the frequent lulls in laughter caused by this approach, the audience never feels bored or uncomfortable.
2016’s offering features some genuine gold: Fouracres as a slave-driving Willy Wonka from the Deep South, mercilessly pushing his Oompa-Loompas to exhaustion; Forbes as a perverted house-hunter, graphically testing out a property in front of Wang’s embarrassed estate agent; and a neatly choreographed action scene, in which Wang’s audio engineer can’t quite get the sound effects right.
But Daphne’s greatest strengths lie elsewhere, in the refined, ten-second mini-sketches they lightly dust over their longer efforts, and in the confidence and comfort with which they approach potentially controversial topics. Jokes around race, gender and religion are delivered with an inescapable irony and a liberating articulacy. One short skit, where Fouracres delves into the trio’s complicated, globe-crossing ancestry, serves to simultaneously emphasise just how diverse Britain’s most ethnically diverse sketch group is, and to send up the absurdity of xenophobic labels themselves. This is smart, slick, sophisticated comedy.
Runs until 28 August 2016 | Image: Contributed