BWW Reviews: THE INVISIBLE DOT CABARET, Manchester International Festival, July 10 2015
Camden's Invisible Dot Club brings its irreverent mix of stand-up and sketch comedy to the Manchester International Festival's central hub for the Invisible Dot Club Cabaret.
Friday's line-up saw compere Mae Martin introduce local stand-up Phil Ellis, and sketch acts Natasia Demetriou & Ellie White, and Sheeps.
Canadian Martin is a delightful compere, her self-deprecating introspective comedy goes down well with the Friday night audience, perhaps a little too well with some trying to deliver their own punchlines to some of the jokes. She explores rebelling in a liberal middle class environment, her risk-averse worrying mother as well as how a hippy teaches you the meaning of laugh. Her style is endearing and likeable and keeps the show moving; she would have been an excellent headliner for the whole gig.
Sadly, the rest of the line-up did not really live up to her high standard. Phil Ellis's routine whilst enjoyable became completely focused on an extroverted American audience member in the front row - which created some funny moments that you might expect from a good compere, rather than an opening act. But his understated subtly self-critical style did make him hard to dislike.
Natasia Demetriou & Ellie White delivered a confused sketch based on a pair of eastern European sisters pretending to be American exotic dancers. Their characters seemed to switch throughout from playing nervous amateur to over the top suggestive dancer. And whilst there were the occasional surreal moments that raised a smile, and some impressive acrobatics, it felt like this was a punchline looking for a joke.
Which brings us onto Sheeps, three young guys doing a series of almost linked sketches which again seemed to lack jokes. Sketch comedy is hard at the best of times, and Friday night at the end of a cabaret is probably not the best atmosphere in which to enjoy it, but even taking this into account this seemed a little underdone - when sketches rely too much on gags about genitalia you know something's not quite right.
Invisible Dot usually has a very high standard of avant-garde and surreal comedy, this is the home of Stewart Lee, Alex Horne and Adam Buxton - so with such high expectations it was shame this line up didn't quite live up to the billing. But Mae Martin held the evening together well, and should get the large audiences and plaudits she deserves.