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Casual Violence: A Kick In The Teeth
Published on Thursday, 16 August 2012
4

4 stars

Just the Tonic at The Caves (venue website)
Comedy
2-13, 15-20, 22-26 Aug, 10:00pm-11:00pm
Reviewed by Will Howard

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

Were it not done spectacularly well, a narrative sketch show could quite easily be called a cop-out. Any troupe with neither the quantity of ideas for a normal sketch show, nor the application to turn a single idea into an hour long story, could put on some sketches with a handful of storylines – and be called innovators. But fortunately Casual Violence, in their third Edinburgh Fringe appearance, have brought us a fine example of how good the genre can be.

As the name suggests, Casual Violence deal in very, very dark sketches filled with exceptionally well-realized characters – most of whom the audience, if they’re anything like me, absolutely love to hate. Truth be told, the sketches are based on simple concepts:  very, very disturbed people in pretty normal situations, or very, very odd people in very, very odd situations. The real kicker is how Casual Violence manage to make these themes seem entirely their own, and most of that is down to the characters and how deeply unsettling they can be.  Put it this way: if you can still find it in you not to wear a poppy this coming Remembrance Day, then you’re made of sterner stuff than I am.

Unfortunately, the fact that these characters are more fleshed-out than in your average sketch show does lead to some problems. Most glaring is the fact that, for a narrative show based on five core sketches, only one of them actually finishes (tragically, of course). This should be a good problem for a show to have – that the audience leaves wanting more – but here I felt slightly short-changed. It’s as if the troupe could have showed us more but chose not to, using the time for another seemingly three-quarter-finished sketch instead.

There is an awful lot of potential here to create some interesting, surreal and rather disturbing stories. Look at the sketch featuring the Earth Defence League, featuring a profoundly damaged leader and his second in command (whose shed they operate out of).  If Casual Violence were to take this sketch alongside, say, two others, expand on them and put them together as three connected stories, then this would be an absolute masterclass in dark comedy. Mind you, that approach would also mean cutting Adam Felman’s pianist role, and I hope no-one hates comedy enough to do that.

None of this is to say that it isn’t funny. Quite the contrary, most of it is pretty hysterical; and even with these concerns unaddressed it’s still a seriously impressive show, worthy of recommendation to anyone who likes their comedy dark. You may have noticed that I’ve only touched on what one of the sketches actually entails, but they are all honestly too good to give anything away.  Take that as a sign that, for its faults, this is still a show that’s worthy of your time and money.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

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

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