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The Short & Girlie Show
Published on Monday, 17 May 2010

The Short and Girlie team are well aware of all the stereotypes around lesbians lacking of a sense of humour. The blurb for their show reads “Lesbians, doing comedy… are you having a laugh?” This six-woman improv troupe attempts to prove those assumptions wrong, and they certainly achieve that – but the show still left me wanting something more.

The set up is very familiar: every fringe-festival comedy-goer must have seen more than one of these ubiquitous improv shows. Four performers on chairs, another with a bell overseeing proceedings, and a sixth at a keyboard. The MC introduces the show with some familiar patter (“Have you seen Whose Line Is It Anyway?”) and the show begins with a fast-moving game of freeze tag. Possibly too fast-moving; the MC seemed very trigger-happy on the bell during this game, and a lot of the ideas didn't get much chance to go anywhere interesting.

However, the four cast members certainly had some skills, and a nice chemistry that was very much in evidence during Speak and Spell – a game where each player takes a turn to say a single word to build up a definition for a nonsense word suggested by the audience. The cast were also very adept at bringing a variety of characters to life, with excellent mimicry and physicality.

The trouble with improv shows is that they can feel like watching other people playing parlour games and, as a result, having a lot more fun than you are. And the short-game format can feel very dated too, since the Whose Line is It Anyway? school of improv spawned a million samey fringe shows; this genre has moved on, with high-falutin’ developments like improvised plays and musicals now commonplace. This doesn’t mean that game-based shows no longer have their place – but they really need to set themselves apart to stand out.  And for the most part, The Short and Girlie Show just doesn't feel special enough.

What makes this show unique is that the performers are queer. But is that enough? I'm not sure. The best moment was one where this fact was at the forefront: another familiar game, re-enacting scenes from an audience member's life, became something unusual because the majority of the audience were gay women too, leading to a suggested scene of two women meeting and eyeing each other up at Cardiff Pride.

This felt fresh, precisely because it was something I had never seen done in improv before: a lesbian relationship presented as a completely normal thing, not ridiculed or played for laughs. (There were laughs, of course, but the players didn't try and get them from the fact that they were – OMG! – Lesbians!) I'm not sure if this means I wanted more of the show to deal with queer themes; but in some way, these performers definitely need to decide just what sets them apart from other improv offerings.

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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.