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Buttery Brown Monk
Leicester Square Theatre
26th March 2015


Samuel Buttery, Ryan J Brown and Jamie-Rose Monk

Photography provided by Buttery Brown Monk

Sometimes comedians come together because they have names that demand they do. Smith and Jones, for example. Doesn't always work though - just look at The Harrison Harris Show. Or don't. That's still a painful memory. On clearly failing to find two other people called Biscuit and Base, Samuel Buttery instead teamed up with Ryan J Brown and Jamie-Rose Monk to form Buttery Brown Monk, an exuberant comedy sketch group with plenty of vibrancy and whimsy. Their eponymous debut show, Buttery Brown Monk, attempts to demonstrate their style of funny. It lacks refinement, sure, but there are some some diamonds in the rough and at this stage, that's enough to make them interesting. When it comes to new kids on the comedy block, what I look for is a spark, and signs of imagination. They're here.

With one sketch every two to three minutes, the trio pack a lot of material into their hour. The first third feels weak, with excellent delivery helping to mask some very average jokes, which are more plain observational than observational comedy. A woman (Monk) willing to sign up for a creepy house share purely because it's in London and it's cheap, Russell Crowe (Brown) being a terrible singer - those are facts of life rather than gags. And let's face it, Crowe's not bad doing his own stuff. An agent (Brown) getting his talent (Monk) awful parts, with all hopes of a big break being dashed - again, too close to the truth. It's probably a genuine first-hand observation from all three actors, but to be blunt, where's the joke? But the set soon picks up.

A sketch about a "little girl" (Monk) scaring off the would-be new lady friend (Brown) of her adopted dad (Buttery) lands particularly well - once the scene is explained the ending is inevitable, but it still makes us laugh whole-heartedly. As does a musical tribute to The Jeremy Kyle Show, with snidey swipes at Graham's aftercare team (let's face it, if the host didn't antagonise his guests so much, Graham wouldn't have so much to do) and a wonderful parody of the man himself by Brown. Having seen Brown previously in Positive, Caravan and Pin, we know he can sometimes be a bit overly two-dimensional as an actor, but that can be a gift when it comes to comedy. He's a solid support, navigating a wide range of superficial characters and showing a versatility I'm not sure I knew he had. Monk I've seen in the same plays and her forthright nature also translates really well to sketch comedy. Buttery for me was the unknown, and it turns out he's a lively, theatrical pocket rocket who energises every scene simply by being there.

Samuel Buttery, Ryan J Brown and Jamie-Rose Monk

Photography provided by Buttery Brown Monk

Apart from the Jeremy Kyle extravaganza, which incidentally has fabulous vocals from Buttery and Monk, there's very little in the way of sound design, and whilst you do feel it's lacking sometimes, actually, if the trio just nailed the writing, they wouldn't need it. Rather than look at ways of dressing up some weaker jokes, they just need to focus on better material. The lighting is timed well, and used to great effect - abrupt silly spotlights get the tone right, as do warning lights. The execution is generally quite good.

Buttery Brown Monk are admittedly not long out of the development phase as a comedy act, but despite all the criticism, there's definite promise, in the least patronising way possible. All three have very distinct personalities which complement each other, making for an electric synergy. Buttery is over the top, Brown is somewhat calmer and Monk is the bolshie, blunt lass with a gob on her. The weakness is not down to their delivery, but the writing. And fixing some dodgy writing is a damn sight easier to manage than changing a performer's stage persona.

These three can act and sing, so more carefully constructed ridiculous musical sketches please, and no borderline racist accents unless the payoff is really really good. You can only get away with certain jokes when the audience are laughing too hard to remember to be politically correct. Mildly funny just doesn't cut it (I'm looking at you as Yoko, Buttery). If they throw away the gags that don't work, pen some more along the same lines of the ones that do, Buttery Brown Monk could be a flamboyant unstoppable force. This is one fledgling group I'll be keenly following.

Buttery Brown Monk ran on 26th March and next runs on 28th March 2015 at the Leicester Square Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly)

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