The challenge of staging this production was a familiar one faced by comedians the world over. Should you bombard your audience with your best material at the sacrifice of context, or let the comedy build slowly, but eventually to great heights?
Because it’s safe to say that the poor gentleman asked about his inside leg measurements during the first minute of ‘The Fast Show – Stood up’ had no idea what was going on. Like most of the audience, he had never seen the eponymous 1990s British sketch show. Had he not been a gentleman, who knows what might have happened.
Fun for old hands and newbies
Those actually in the know sat well away from the front row, guffawing at the familiar characters and catchphrases. Maybe some took issue with certain accents (“Suits you sir”) and interpretations (“ … which was nice”), but it was through its readjustments that this production delivered something a little more substantial than nostalgia.
For the clueless meanwhile, exposed and initially uncomposed, it had the beginnings of a bad nightmare. “Why is this man telling us what he has been eating?” they asked. But as the characters returned – over the course of 70 sketches in 90 minutes – they provided a context. They told stories and completed arcs, and as they did, the laughter increased greatly.
Anarchic but beautifully timed, it was a masterclass in honing challenging material to a challenged audience. The ten-member cast made full use of every entry, exit, level, vantage point and potential interaction. It was slick and, fitting of its name, quickfire.
Standing out from the crowd
Leading the way was Martin Popplewell, a familiar face among CTC circles who has been sitting on a big, fat talent for far too long. Blessed with wonderfully comic eyes, his accent work, intonation and delivery was top-notch throughout. He must have changed costume at least 30 times – 31 if you include his birthday suit.
Experienced thespian Vanessa Poole was also in her element, and the pair combined to tremendous effect in the "What did I say, Roy?" sketch, the standout of the night. They subtly toned down the final line in the first three sketches to render more of an impact with the final one, which duly brought the house down.
And where has Popplewell been hiding Jon Nunn, besides behind the bar at the Red Lion? Presumably a fan of the show, his mimicry was amazing. It was like Charlie Higson himself was on stage. It made you wonder whether he could have lightened Popplewell’s load by playing Ralph, but it was Popplewell’s show after all and he really wanted to get his kit off.
Equally, it would have been nice to see more of Dawn Wall whose “Does my bum look big in this?” trilogy was superbly judged. And a special mention must be made of Vaughn Strother, whose timing brought balance to the force in more than a few of the scenes. By the end of the show, he had them eating out of his hand, and his adjustments, if they were his, were … “Brilliant!”
The upshot of this one-off performance is that Copenhagen had better take heed. The English Drama Company might have made a fast exit, but they have all the necessary ingredients to make a long and lasting impression. And the Danish capital’s English-language theatrical scene is all the stronger for it.
The Fast Show – Stood up
The ‘The Fast Show – Stood up’ was performed twice at Krudttønden theatre on Sunday December 7. There are no more planned performances.