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Laughing Stock - Edinburgh Previews **Hobble Through**
Leicester Square Theatre
7th July 2015


Rhys Bevan, Lewis Doherty, Phoebe Higson and Arabella Gibbons

Photography provided by Laughing Stock

If we're being cynical, we'd say that when it comes to comedy, you really need a hook: something that makes you stand out from the squillions of other sketch troupes out there. Arabella Gibbons, Lewis Doherty, Rhys Bevan and Phoebe Higson are a funny foursome with a wheelchair. Now, given Doherty isn't actually disabled, it seems a bit extreme to do his leg in to add a bit of interest, but it's apparently an unfortunate accident that's happened just before the fringe season really kicks off. Bad choice of phrasing. Now we're not suggesting he did it deliberately - it seems that's the only poor timing in the show, Laughing Stock deliver roughly 20 sketches in quick succession with plenty of energy and charm.

The four work well together, but it's Gibbons who is the strongest performer - her busk-off with Higson easily one of the funniest sketches. Indeed, it's the jokes involving music where this group really excels. The unsigned artist's struggle to be appreciated in the face of talentless idiots is situation specific, but embodies a theme which the audience can instantly identify with. Gibbons has a wonderfully melodic voice and her actual talent is what ramps up the humour. The payoff is wildly funny, with another highlight the singer's later solo self-composition about love. Time has clearly gone into crafting the music and lyrics and it's been well spent. Gibbons isn't the only one who can sing though, and I'd really love to see the whole group do more comedy music numbers, as they have the talent and this could be a more enduring hallmark after the loan chair goes back to Hammersmith Hospital.

Initially it seems like Doherty is trying to get on with the show as best he can, with some of the jokes rewritten to suit his limited mobility, but the more he's pushed around, the more he seems to identify with Andy from Little Britain and his voice progressively changes into that of Matt Lucas. We half expect him to get up and run to the bar at some point, thus proving there's nothing really wrong with his messed up Achilles tendon. No, the wheelchair is needed. Imitating another comedian? Less necessary. He's a lot funnier when he's not trying to be someone else, with his callbacks as annoying rapper Cheddar particularly memorable.

Speaking of which, Laughing Stock write in lots of callbacks, working well and at least providing some sort of through-line for their 20-odd sketches, with a few especially quick-fire. Varying the length does help with the pacing, but not all the short sketches land perfectly - and a short dig at the Scots is a brave thing to write in when they're taking the show to Edinburgh. Some just aren't as well written as the others, such as the ladette joke and could be feasibly cut to shave 5 minutes off the entire show and give the foursome some leeway for strict EdFringe running times. When you have any element of audience participation, having some wriggle room is always a useful thing.

Laughing Stock are great performers with enthusiasm and natural charisma. Some of their sketches could do with tweaking, but it's always easier to fine tune the writing than it is stage presence, which is something they have in spades.

Laughing Stock - Edinburgh Previews **Hobble Through** opened on 6th July and runs until 7th July 2015 at the Leicester Square Theatre. The show will run from 6th to 30th August 2015 at Cowgate, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly)

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