Aeneas Faversham **** Forever Bedlam Theatre
RETURNING to Edinburgh after a successful stint on Radio 7, The Penny Dreadfuls triumphantly premiered their new show to a sold-out, hysterical house. Now a trio, the team decided to revisit the site of their inception to reinvent themselves, abandoning the sketch-show format in favour of a full blown play.
Being picky, (it's their own fault, they set the bar so high) the show occasionally felt a little like a series of connected sketches, rather than a complete homogenous work. It speaks volumes about their collective genius though, that finding even that single problem with the play was arduous.
The Victorian conceit remains, as the group gallop through a dark tale of shady dealings and murder, each of the actors shifting easily between multiple roles with a bare minimum of props and costume, and no set whatsoever.
Impossibly tall Humphrey Ker, perma-grinning David Reed and the rubber-faced Thom Tuck bounced off of one another in a variety of caricatures and vaudvillian archetypes, literally bringing tears to the eyes of the audience almost continuously.
While it might seem churlish to award only four stars to such a funny piece, there's no question that it should walk effortlessly away with the full five when it returns for a full Fringe run.
Not for nothing have they been compared to some of the greatest legends of comedy history, like the Pythons and Spike Milligan. If they continue in this vein, The Penny Dreadfuls cannot fail to be added to that list.