Velvet Trumpet, a theatre company based in South London, commits itself to delivering plays that feature the unexamined comedy in everyday life. So it created Soggy Brass, a revue show of short comedy pieces written, directed and performed by talent from across the city. It boasts on its leaflet that it is proud to present the ‘largest, most diverse and funniest’ line-up yet, and from watching a selection of seven mini plays spread across the evening, I can see the evening very much lived up to its testimony.
Spirits, written by Eliot Ruocco-Trenouth and Thomas Wingfield, opens the evening with a sketch about the morning after the night before. What this duo have written is a quirky, clever piece. It is great fun to watch the fast paced exchanges between the two, although its script has moments that need a little tweaking.
Natasha Sutton-Williams provides the second piece – Dead Lucy. Displaying a darker comedy, this monologue, written and performed by Sutton-Williams, explores those that feel like they are trapped in a meaningless existence – their routine rendering them dead inside. Throughout we see Lucy give her 8-year-old students out of date contraceptive pills and fantasise wildly about a sex life only a porn star could dream of. The piece is filthy, bold and frighteningly recognisable.
One of the two stand out pieces of the night written by Ffion Jones is Ugly Lovely. Jones, together with Sophie Hughes, play two best mates from Swansea on a night out, hiding from a thunderstorm in a kebab shop. Whilst sheltering from the rain, their fake tan running down their legs, the pair debate life, love and hot dogs. What Jones has written is a duologue that forces us to recognise similar characters in our own lives, exaggerating them, but also make them highly likeable. Combined with the pair’s genius acting skills, Ugly Lovely was one of the highlights of the evening.
The Special Relationship, written by Stephen Broderick, is the closing of Act One. Unsure of whether it was simply the stifling heat in the auditorium that left the audience gagging for a break, the duologue performed by Roger Parkins and Lewis Allcock fell rather flat. Whilst the premise could potentially be very funny, the reality is that the piece becomes rather crude and embarrassing for those watching, not necessarily entertaining.
The opening to Act Two provides the second piece that shows amazing potential. Beached by James McDermott is a monologue that follows young Jimmy living in the seaside town of Sheringham, Norfolk, a place he’s sure they forgot to bomb. Growing up as a young, gay boy in Norfolk seems impossible; his cynical views declare that “love is just something you do between the womb and the tomb to pass the time”. What McDermott manages to do that none of the others succeed in, is not only to keep the piece well-paced, but deliver a monologue that touches the hearts of the audience, as well as have them bursting into real fits of laughter.
Stumped by Leah Cowan sees four employees from an architectural firm negotiate their way through a team building retreat weekend. Overcoming the patriarchy and yet still slightly tinged with sarcasm, Joelle and Marta are two women with all the answers, though it is the character of Ricky’s egotistical lad that makes this piece as humorous as it is.
Finally, Thomas Jones and Nikolai Ribnikov’s The Ravenmaster is a one-person piece that follows what happens to the Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster at the Tower of London. Whilst the execution of the piece is largely great, it falls rather flat in comparison to the previous two, the comic timing of Thomas Jones not feeling completely in sync.
Soggy Brass is a brilliant, inventive evening that is absolutely instrumental in making sure that new comedy writing and theatre has a platform for performance. Whilst some could still allow for a few small tweaks to their material, it is undoubtedly a successful evening that is a hoot to watch.
Soggy Brass played at Southwark Playhouse. For more information, see the Velvet Trumpet website.