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Sinful: 7 Comedy Shorts For 7 Deadly Sins
Published on Friday, 13 July 2012

3 starsMilton's Head, Comedy
6-7, 13-14 Jul, 7:00pm-8:00pm; 8, 15 Jul, 4:30pm-5:30pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

The Seven Deadly Sins.  A fairly obvious set-up for a comedy sketch routine… but there’s nothing at all predictable about Carly Tarett’s one-woman show.  Each of her seven self-penned vignettes picks an interesting angle on the featured vice, and most of them present intelligent laughs, based around well-developed characters and highly creative themes.

Lust, for example, starts off as you’d expect: a monologue from a sex-crazed “woman of a certain age”, who’s just found her perfect gigolo.  But things aren’t quite as they seem, and once the penny dropped, I realised the sketch relied on a subtle and intriguing concept far more than bawdy humour.  Similarly, Greed packs in a couple of unexpected swerves, as an ironically-thoughtful bank robber called “Meathead” debates the macro-economic impact of his next heist.  Relying more on scenario and character than laugh-a-minute gags, both these pieces were rewarding slow-burners.

The one disappointment, I thought, was Pride – represented by a piously lecturing politician, keen to share news of the government’s achievements in power.  There was the opportunity for some proper satire here, but in fact it’s a series of double-entendres; I admire the willingness to try a different style but, in contrast to the thoughtfulness of the other six pieces, I found its humour artless.  Gluttony, on the other hand, used a series of punchlines to build a scarily credible vision.  Based in an unruly fitness class where all conversations turned to food, it parodied both the excesses of the self-help industry and those who prove unwilling to help themselves.

My favourite sketch – Wrath – was a foul-mouthed deconstruction of Little Red Riding Hood, pointing out how fundamentally irrational the little girl’s behaviour is.  At times I was helpless with laughter, as a classroom assistant educated her young charges on the realities of life with an evil wolf around.  I lost count of the f-words, but subtracting any of them would make the piece the poorer.

Envy is truly dark, with a hypocritically vindictive neighbour apparently awaiting treatment in a hospital ward; the mystery of what she’s doing there lasts for the whole piece, and there’s a tight knot of menace balancing the well-observed wit.  And the final piece, Sloth, is edgy too.  Accompanying herself on a guitar – yes, a proper guitar for once, not a ukulele – Tarett sings about a truly inventive example of household laziness.  Her follow-up number, themed around ME, flirts with the boundary of good taste, but the joke’s on Tarett herself I’d say she gets away with it.

So the material is (almost) all good, but the show tickled my intellect more than it did my funny-bone.  Partly, I think, that was down to the venue, whose serried rows of pub tables felt rather like a schoolroom.  Still, the interludes between sketches did drag a bit, and the mood created at the end of one piece didn’t carry through into the next one.  I’d suggest a hard look at the costumes changes, to see whether all the accessories are really necessary and whether those pauses could be trimmed.

Such reservations are to be expected, though, for any brand-new sketch show.  Sinful is on its way to Edinburgh after Buxton – and with those few small issues smoothed out, I think it’ll give its audiences a wickedly entertaining time.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.