Lady Garden: A Sketch Show
Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
3 – 29 August 2011
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Written and performed by
Directed, Designed and Lit by Phillip Breen
Stage Managed by Douglas Cox
Female sketch group Lady Garden return to the Fringe with another hour of inventive and original sketches, ranging from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous; and taking us into some delightfully dark corners of their garden.
This year’s show impresses due to a lack of filler. After an intro featuring the world’s most miserable hen party, things get off to a relatively safe and normal start, with sketches featuring genre staples such as toe-curling job interviews and questionable dating agencies.
Then, things take a darker turn, and Lady Garden’s show is all the better for it. Serial killers on holiday; murderers concealing bodies in Ikea bags; creepy characters who seem to have escaped from the nearest secure unit: when Lady Garden turn the tone towards the dark side, they really shine.
The girls’ performances are all strong, with each one of their personalities and styles distinct enough to make them individual, yet still gelling well as a group. Some running gags – particularly an inept and distracted tattoo artist – turn the absurdist dial up to the max; and by the end, the girls certainly are in a different place – and with a different look – to where they began an hour before.
All is certainly not rosy in the Lady Garden. But the dark parts which they take us to this evening are where the real comedy gold is buried.
by Tim Willcox
It’s a packed audience, mostly people in their twenties and thirties, which bodes well for this sketch show featuring the all-girl quintet of young writers and performers that is Lady Garden. Starting as they mean to go on, we see the five somewhat the worse for wear on a hen night with the “hen” tasked with downing a substance of dubious origin, egged on by the others grasping, to the untrained eye, a selection of what appeared to be sex toys.
With such a full-on start, this is definitely not a show for the prudish or faint hearted. Yet you can detect an engaging inventiveness about a lot of the sketches as they tumble around you at breakneck speed, so quickly that you hardly have time to laugh (or groan at some well-placed irony) before the next one begins. Their ingenuity extends through the classic verbal skit to mime and even pure silence as slick changes of costume, props, character and situation ensure there is something to amuse most of the audience most of the time.
That’s one of the challenges in pulling together any sketch show – making sure that you don’t lose the audience – and Lady Garden’s well thought out script ensures that variants on a number of ideas maintain that all important flow of laughter. We had a series of tattoos that go wrong, an extended parody on the iconic cigar advert of the 1970’s and a series of equine encounters on which to muse. Dovetailing with these thematic sketches were pieces including a nervous entertainer and her hapless producer, a non-too gentle send up of the falseness that inhabits many job interviews and a dating agency with a difference – let’s just say it was rather equine focused.
The variety of material gives the girls plenty of opportunity to demonstrate their aptitude for characterization, stereotyping and caricatures. A lot of thought has also gone into equipping the set with a dizzying array of props and costumes which both add to the sketches as well as facilitating the quick changes essential to keeping the whole show flowing and the audience engaged. Clever use of an old-fashioned slide show projector ensured that the audience at least knew what was coming next, or what they had just witnessed. And the icing on the cake was the creative use of apposite musical stings to link the sketches or even, in a couple of cases, as the sketch itself.
Most of the show isn’t laugh out loud material but it’s generally clever, often inventive humour. It gets a 4* rating because Lady Garden have a very clear idea of the audience they are targeting – principally the 20-35 age range attending in couples or small groups - and their material hit the bulls eye judging from the sustained and loud applause that greeted the final sketch.
So if you fit that audience description, this is a show I would highly recommend. But if you’re don’t, think carefully about whether you want to attend, or you may end up like our wee “hen” that starts off the show – being forced to swallow something not quite to your taste.
by Alice Jones
Lady Garden take a more traditional approach to sketch comedy in their prop-heavy, quickfire hour. It's the all-female troupe's fourth year at the Fringe and, having lost one member, Jessica Knappett, to The Inbetweeners, they're working as a five-piece for the first time. Directed by Phillip Breen, they've slickened up considerably performing on an eclectic living-room set crammed with glitter balls, gramophones and hat-stands, dressed in various takes on Land Girl tweedy chic. The opening is one of the best I've seen and there's a running joke in which everyday events are imbued with tragic significance, which is brilliantly done.
Enormously likeable – particularly the maniacal Hannah Dodd and the charming Beattie Edmondson (daughter of Adrian Edmondson and Jennifer Saunders) – their strength is that they all have funny bones and don't mind making themselves look as silly as possible. Their weakness is that they still lack the writing and killer punchlines to end every sketch with a bang. Still, it's going in the right direction and you'd have to have a heart of stone not to leave smiling.
by Laura Hutton
Lady Garden have returned with their fourth Edinburgh show, serving up yet more absurd delights. Seeming to have been let loose in an antique shop, the girls use an array of props and costumes from the assorted clutter onstage, producing teapots and mops, scrawling all over each others’ faces and honing their man-ensnaring skills.
The odds and ends of the set well reflect the standard of jokes; some are very much old-hat, others hidden treasures. Their costumes of tweed and tailoring add to the impression that we are watching the performance in sepia tone, making for a rather sophisticated visual treat.
Their humour, on the other hand, is straightforward, and more often than not it’s fairly obvious from the start where each sketch is heading. On top of this, the girls aren’t shy about spelling things out, even when the audience have well and truly grasped it. For certain crowds, this will go down a storm I’m sure, but if you like your comedy witty and subtle, Lady Garden is probably not for you.
Amongst the corny gags are some absolute crackers which certainly make it well worth your while. They put their abundance of props to excellent use, and lively performances from all five infuse every sketch with bubbling charm. Go and see for nutty banter and a brilliant playlist.
Click here to see an interview with Lady Garden with extracts from the show.
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