views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The War on Error
Etcetera Theatre
7th August 2015


Publicity image for The War on Error

Photography provided by The Errors of Comedy

You would assume that the title of one of Shakespeare's famous farces with plenty of mistaken identity in it would be the perfect name for a sketch group where each performer plays a whole host of different characters. However, despite the very best of intentions and ambition, there's just not a huge amount to laugh at in The Comedy of Errors' 60-minute show The War on Error. This seven-strong troupe make their way through roughly two dozen sketches without ever really getting close to their target.

On the whole, The Errors aren't bad performers, they deliver their lines with all the gusto required of them. Shawn Lindsell sometimes doesn't project enough, but that's a minor point. Alexis Wieroniey and Simon Rudkin in particular have a confident presence. Presumably the group do at least find their own work funny, but they never corpse on stage, and their timing is fine. They do all however desperately need a better writer - enthusiasm is great, but it's just not enough.

Few sketches stand out. Before John Barron and Lindsell even open their mouths, we know we're watching a blind date that's gone wrong, and we know how the rest is going to pan out. There's no unexpected twist. Tristan Marshall oversees a tale of domestic violence between Wieroniey and Paul Whiting, bemoaning how the seriousness of the setup deprives the scene of any humour, but this double bluff falls flat. If you're going to take something as inherently upsetting and tragic as abuse, you have to do so in a really extreme way to push through from sad to hilarious. Here the joke is too tame to get any laughs.

Just as you begin to realise there's no through line whatsoever, along comes Celine Boulhaya with a repeated joke about a woman who thinks a fake baby is real. This is an attempt to give The War on Error some structure, and the logic behind that is sound, but there's no point in recycling material when it doesn't garner any chuckles the first time round. A running gag should become more and more entertaining, the increasing familiarity feeling like an in-joke and really ramping up the humour for the audience. Sadly that's not the case here. We recognise the character, but we don't really care.

Music choices like Whole Lotta Love and Be My Baby are smart, and help sketches segue from one to the other. However, whilst this sort of finishing touch is nice, in many ways, it's completely irrelevant when the writing is so weak.

The show suddenly ends at its allocated time, with no real reason other than the group appear to have finally run out of sketches, and the venue need the stage back. The Errors seem like nice people who are close-knit and get on with each other well, but whilst having a good rapport can be very helpful in comedy, again, it always comes back to the quality of the material. The War on Error needs to be more edgy, intelligent and current. The performers are willing and able to go into battle, but they need a better plan if they're going to win next time.

The War on Error opened on 7th August and runs until 9th August 2015 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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