Minor Delays was one of the toasts of the Edinburgh Fringe last year, with stars a-plenty and a bright future predicted for this sketch comedy trio. Now the show has transferred to the Soho Theatre, and it’s certainly a slick, fine-tuned piece. Yet while the performances are proficient and engaging, the subject matter doesn’t always match up.
Harry Michell, Abi Tedder and Joe Barnes are all accomplished character actors and their performances revel in the silliness of situations, accents and facial expressions. In one of the best running jokes – a smugly precocious seven-year-old – the comedy is elicited far more from Michell’s characterisation of the unbearable Graham than from the punchline. Indeed, falling back on the word c**t to provoke a laugh is a disappointing end to some very funny set-ups.
Tedder in particular reminds us of her acting chops, creating the most defined characters in the short, snappy sketches. We are whisked through gag after skit after punchline, and in fact the beginning feels a little rushed – the audience takes a few minutes to adjust to the pace and there’s not enough room for each joke to settle as we find our way into their style of comedy. Yet when everyone has relaxed into the rhythm, there’s no denying that this is a slick and tight outfit, perfectly rehearsed and in sync with each other’s performances. The simple staging – identical outfits, no set, and no looking at each other – allows the focus to remain on the performances and the writing.
Sadly, that’s where the show falls down. I frequently found myself smiling at the intended joke, but the times I actually laughed out loud could be counted on one hand. Elements of the writing are reasonably clever, silly and dark by turns, but it always felt a little knowing – too aware of its own intent rather than causing laughs to tumble out naturally. The subject matters are a little predictable and, while it’s a pleasant enough evening, very little is belly-achingly or ground-breakingly funny. Ultimately, the style is similar to other groups who have come out of the Cambridge Footlights (Michell and Tedder are both former members) in recent years, but with writing that is slightly less zany, less biting and less witty.
Having said that, many audience members did seem to be enjoying themselves a great deal more than me. Yet I couldn’t help thinking there was something of the ‘emperor’s new clothes’ about the show – the performers are so slick and such obviously talented comedy actors, that we want to appreciate their writing more than is due. Taking a step back, the comedy is rather thinner on the ground than you’d hope. With more inspiration behind the writing, however, Minor Delays have all the potential to develop their craft.
Minor Delays is playing at the Soho Theatre until 12 March. For more information and tickets, see the Soho Theatre website.