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Hot Crisps
Etcetera Theatre
2nd August 2016


Edd Cornforth, Oli Gilford and Jake Shoolheifer

Photography provided by Cheque Please

Sometimes the name of a show can be deep and meaningful and give you a proper insight into what it's all about. Sometimes, well - I'll leave it to Cheque Please performers Edd Cornforth, Jake Shoolheifer and Oli Gilford to explain how they came up with the name Hot Crisps. Whilst it's posited as a joke to open the gig, it wouldn't surprise me if, like the rest of their material, it's funny 'cos it's true.

The sketches in Hot Crisps are largely based on observational comedy, which arguably is the easiest kind to write, however that never really matters as long as it's entertaining. Frankly, I don't care clever a joke is if it has me in stitches and I quite like observational comedy. Just putting that out there. You never get all sketches to land well in a show of this nature, but the boys get into their stride a few sketches in and they have a really impressive hit rate with the audience laughing heartily throughout.

Spoofs of TV programmes like The Jeremy Kyle Show and Masterchef are among the highlights, with Cornforth, Shoolheifer and Gilford not doing anything new, but doing it well with lots of dedication and charm. Although references to Ready Steady Cook and Deal or No Deal aren't exactly current, there are a few B rexit jokes quickly written in and the clear attempt to update their material is rewarded by a warm reception. Not only are they very likeable, they have great timing.

For the most part, the humour is tame and relatively innocent. All good stuff, but there is a weakness in how so very little about Hot Crisps differentiates the trio from any other sketch group and comedy is a heavily saturated market. They need to stand out more. I suspect the performers don't realise that their key strength lies in their musical ability, as this isn't fully exploited. Whilst I'm not saying they need to or even should go head to head with the likes of Frisky and Mannish, just throwing in a few more musical gags would bolster their show and give it an edge. They all have really clear, controlled vocals and Cornforth's ode to Barbara was deliciously pathetic. More of the same would be welcome.

As entertaining as this show is, there's no ignoring that Shoolheifer struggles with corpsing throughout. Although he does recover quickly, it can be slightly awkward at times. Towards the end, all three corpse and break down into grins and giggles which actually creates more humour with the audience laughing at them laughing. If you can't hold in a chuckle during a sketch show, sometimes it's better to just go with it rather than try to hold it in. The rapport between the three performers is warm and natural and they do all have their stronger moments, but Shoolheifer really needs to control his facial expressions better.

Cutting edge it ain't, however Hot Crisps is a lot of fun, in part because Cornforth, Shoolheifer and Gilford are all having a good time and that's simply infectious. I'd happily see them again and hopefully they will make more use of their musical talents going forward as they have so much untapped potential there.

Hot Crisps opened on 1st August and runs until 3rd August 2016 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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