Rarely do you see a comedy show as perfectly conceived and executed as this. There’s not a trace of filler in Pappy’s latest and greatest opus, the trio of Matthew Crosby, Ben Clark and Tom Parry so far surpassing their previous work that they’ve set a new gold standard for sketch comedy.
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The writing is so dense, so cleverly structured and such a consistent delight that the performances need to be as carefully choreographed as they are knockabout fun, with nary a scene change wasted as an opportunity to elicit extra laughs. They pack so much into the hour yet the pace is deceptively casual, their tomfoolery unfolding with the happy nostalgia of fond reminisce.
The premise is the three have grown old, returning to the Queen Dome as the site of their final performance, struggling to recall what broke the troupe up. Piecing together their memories sketch by sketch, the interplay between past and present is as easy and seamless as thought, frequently accomplished by nothing more complicated as the adoption of a hat.
Matthew is reportedly the most comfortable with advanced age, Tom still the boisterous one who gets carried away. But their personas are otherwise more loosely-defined than in the past, allowing for much greater flexibility, as they superbly exploit the oft-quoted comedy rule of three to set up, reinforce and subvert their imaginative conceits.
This pattern, exemplified by a hilarious sequence in which each undergoes a bodily transformation, never becomes prescriptive. Instead, it’s established just subtly enough to lodge in the audience’s peripheral awareness, whereupon they mix it up and surprise you all over again.
Callbacks to previous jokes abound, ostensibly for the joy of it. Invariably though, they drive the narrative on too. Even the least, extremely funny sketches are revealed to have a part to play in the elaborate whole, while a “Choose Your Own Adventure” pastiche spoofs the illusion of spontaneity and the facade of this being a unique performance. Of course, you don’t dwell on any of this at the time, you’re too busy enjoying a silly song about gloves, the emotionally manipulative music cue gags, the twisted logic of talent show I Can’t Do That!
If this is destined to be Pappy’s swansong, it’s a wonderful legacy for them to be remembered by.
Until 27 August. Today 8:20pm.