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The Penny Dreadfuls 2010
Published on Thursday, 15 April 2010

It’s back to the future for the Penny Dreadfuls, the three-man comedy troupe originally known for Victorian-era sketch show Aeneas Faversham.  Like last year’s play The Never Man, this new show eschews their historical trademark and keeps them rooted firmly in the present day.  But it also marks a welcome return to sketch comedy – the genre which made their name, and where, we feel, their talent truly shines.

Penny Dreadfuls

We caught an early version of the Dreadfuls’ new show at a scratch performance in Edinburgh; it was rough of course, but it looks like once it’s buffed up and polished it’ll be another winner.  A role-reversed quarrel between a straight-laced teenager and his sulky dad was a particular highlight; so was a master-class in face acting, where Thom Tuck – in character as a frightened boy – contorted his features outlandishly into places they really shouldn’t go.  There were a few more thought-provoking moments too, with a scene involving a perpetually neglected wife contriving to be both funny and sad.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that they’ll bring the same sketches to Brighton.  But it’s as much about their personalities as it is about the material: freed once more from a rigid script, they played delightfully off each other and the audience, improvising their way around the occasional mis-step and leaving the crowd gasping for more.

The challenge now facing the Dreadfuls is to recapture the tightness and coherence of their Faversham days – and with August’s Edinburgh Festival clearly the main goal, their Brighton show may be a still-rough gem.  But even if it’s not the finished product, it’ll be a laugh-a-minute affair… and we promise, you'll find it anything but Dreadful.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.