Theatre review – Spud author & co.'s sketchy attempt at insanity

2013-08-04 14:00

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The Rise of the Insanity League has everything that makes a good comedy sketch show. It also has a lot of what doesn’t.

It brings together the considerable talents of John van de Ruit of Spud fame; Ben Voss, Van de Ruit’s collaborator on their earlier Green and Black Mamba sketch theatre shows (as well as the man behind Beauty Ramapelepele); and actor Aaron McIlroy, a prolific stage comedian (and the lunatic father in Spud).

A team with any of these guys in it should produce comedy gold – and when they do get it right, it’s great.

But they’re a little let down by their concept.

They kick off with the rather thin premise that there’s an age-old Insanity League, responsible for some of history’s greatest disasters, including the Great Fire of London in 1666.

There’s even an attempt to link the league to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 when the Normans invaded England.

Normans are deftly made synonymous with being “normal”, the enemy of the Insanity League.

And that, supposedly, sets up the show: that insanity is great and being a Norman must be avoided at all costs.

But it falls a bit flat. For me, comedy works best when the madness is played as straight as possible, when the actors don’t let on that they’re remotely aware how mad they’re being.

There’s also a fair bit of weirdly aggressive audience abuse in this show, so if you’re faint of heart, sit at the back.

That said, when the trio is not being too self-referential and just acts out their better sketches, they’re good.

The accents are amusing, the outfits are ridiculous and even the singing is fun.

Sketches like the guy in the nightclub arguing with his left and right brain (his higher-reason faculties and his penis, respectively), and the talk show featuring a stuttering government minister and a Helen Zille-type discussing how to deal with a tsunami more than 200m high, make you wish they’d just got on with more of this from the start.

So it has its moments, but it’s pretty hit and miss.

»?The Rise of the Insanity League runs at Pieter Toerien’s Main Theatre at Montecasino until August 11. Tickets cost between R100 and R160

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