Next Level Sketch, with special guests The Free Mondays

Socially distanced tables at Hoopla Impro.

Tuesday saw the return of Next Level Sketch to our spiritual home, Hoopla Impro at The Miller in London Bridge.

It was another important step on the long road back to normality, as this time we weren’t obliged to do two sets to two different audiences. We had actual special guests in the form of the wonderful Free Mondays.

Compering duties.

England had defeated Germany shortly before our doors opened, and downstairs had been part of the great national psychodrama of knock-out football. I’m not sure what the Venn Diagram intersection is between sketch comedy and Southgatians, so I hedged my bets by coming on stage to Three Lions and then making a joke about… the cricket.

In past shows, we’ve tried to introduce what we do with a sketch, the logic being that the rhythm of sketch is different to that of other comedy, and it’s a good way to ease people in. But this stand up approach felt much more natural, and I was able to relax the audience into What Was To Come.

Dan Smith and Flex Toomey in Aga-Who.

The cast were incredible. We did a quick tech-run through before the doors opened, which felt a touch nervy. But everyone upped their game eight thousand percent in front of a live audience, feeding off the energy of the crowd and each other to deliver some memorable performances.

“A waste, to leave a caravan unattended”.

It’s tricky to figure out which sketches are working the best when you’re performing, particularly with the limited capacities allowed at present.

“It’s time for you to shit or get off my grandmother” – Paul Creasy’s Mixed Metaphor World Championships.

But I really enjoyed Flex Toomey’s Alan Bennett-ian “We Love Our Caravan”, based on her own grandparents’ no-nonsense appreciation of chemical toilets and three-sided shower cubicles, a sketch of boiling underground tension and coordinated tea sipping; Paul Creasy’s Mixed Metaphor World Championships, in which myself and Daniel Smith got to fire off baffling jingo with liberating abandon while Rebecca Diez was on gleeful commentary duties; my own Fantasy Meets Tripadvisor chaos of flying octopuses and warm porridge, brilliantly performed by Madeleine Kasson and Greg Davies; and the surreal lunacy of Horse Holiday, in which horse passports and horse radio one were mere background detail in a tale of an average, family horse having a nervous breakdown on the way to Magahoof.

Euan Brown’s horse holiday.
Greg Davies and Madeleine Kasson.

After the interval came the excellent Free Mondays, whose professionalism, performance, and writing were all a joy to imbibe from my seat at the front.

A special mention must go to Phoebe Lewis for her performance as a terrifying mother on the phone to the Peppa Pig who lives in her own head, Luke Behan as Boris Johnson applying to join the cast of Sex in the City, and the whole cast for their sublime, physical performance as the band on the Titanic.

Next Level Sketch returns on the 27th July, with another fun special guest and lots more ridiculous sketches.

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