No Mean Feet’s ode to literature and the life of an English student is not just clever, it’s hyper intelligent. Settling down in a cosy library set The Canon: A Literary Sketch Show flicks through the pages of the canon and gives it the Fry and Laurie treatment, bringing well-known characters into the present day with sound knowledge and comic flair.
Charlie Bucket has taken over the Chocolate Factory and made adjustments according to health and safety guidelines. Anne Brontë churns out bestsellers while her ungrateful sisters lounge around and take all the credit. Charles Dickens has tired of 900-page novels and decides to publish his own celebrity cookbook instead: it features recipes for ‘gruel with an Oliver Twist’ and ‘Barnaby Fudge’, and ‘Charlie’s 15 Minute Meals’ aims to emulate the success George Orwell had with ‘All Animals Taste Good But Some Taste Better Than Others’. From Hamlet to The Hungry Caterpillar, they’re all here and twisted into comedy fodder.
Some of the sketches are aimed firmly at those with a literature degree and it’s not really a surprise that the loudest laughs come from the more mainstream gags. While it’s unlikely that puns on Barthes’ Death of the Author will chime with most, The Canon: A Literary Sketch Show strikes just the right balance and the majority of its jokes are accessible to anyone who’s ever picked up a book. As is the nature of sketch comedy some pieces work better than others but there’s certainly never a dull moment in the show. The cast’s charismatic performances prove that they’re more than just funny, punny, well-read Cambridge grads and demonstrate real wit and hilarious showmanship.
Vibrant and thoroughly entertaining, The Canon: A Literary Sketch Show is like the physical, theatrical embodiment of a novel you just can’t bear to put down. It made my bookworm’s heart sing.
The Canon: A Literary Sketch Show is at C too (Venue 4) until 25 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. For more information and tickets see the Edinburgh Fringe website.