After our July show was wiped out by the pingdemic – one of those neologisms you feel dirty for using – it was lovely to be back at Hoopla at The Miller with my fellow Next Level humans for some preposterous, funny nonsense.
I wasn’t able to attend the meeting in which the sketches and performers were selected for this particular show , but my fellow producers did a fantastic job balancing the talents available with the stupid roles we needed them to perform.
So Sarit Wilson Chen was absolutely the correct person to be a lunatic housewife spewing nonsensical pseudo-cockney; Paul Creasy exuded the deadpan authority to be a CEO trying to shoehorn his own screenplay into a corporate meeting; and Jenna Cole was hilariously believable as a superhero furious that her local multiplex is only showing movies from the extended Ken Loach universe.
Manisha Patel, making her Next Level debut, was dryly amused to play a bunch of service roles (even if one of them was technically Wonderwoman); Madeleine Kasson was an actress playing an actress, taught us all how to stage fight and unleashed her full mime skills; and Roderick Millar committed, absolutely, to every role he played, no matter how palpably absurd. And we often make Roderick do palpably absurd things.
And me? Well, it would be wrong of me to judge my own performance, but I was amazing.
Joking aside, I was really happy to be MCing again, and think I wrote a funny intro and came up with a fun conceit to keep Euan busy sketching every single sketch, and getting him on after the interval to show the audience what he had come up with. Look out for those in a future post, they’re worth waiting for.
Way back in January 2020, when we started this venture, with wild optimism and no idea a global pandemic was lurking in our collective near future, we had a full year of second half acts booked for our shows. Part of the reason we wanted to do this in the first place was to give a regular space for sketch acts often stuck on bills with stand-up comedians – we wanted ours to be THE place to come and watch sketch comedy in London.
So obviously, next up we had Luke Rollason, a clown. Got to keep the audience guessing.
We’ve had Luke perform at Factually Inaccurate and it was a joy to welcome him back for our other venue, despite his stretching of the remit. I don’t think I’m actually qualified to review the mad, repetition-based, physical and even existential comedy that spews out of Rollason’s mind, so I shall simply say: go see him. You will laugh a lot.
Rounding things off for us were The Awkward Silence, who definitely are a sketch act. There are two of them, they are well but contrastingly attired, and their sketches all jump out of each other, like a Russian Doll but with jokes.
This was their first gig in a long while, but there were no specks of rust here. Vivyan Almond can get a laugh with an eyebrow or a semi-gurn; Ralph Jones is never funnier than when channeling his inner camp into a femme fatale from the pulp noir novel of your dreams.
It was so glorious to be back, three days later and the buzz has not disappeared. Thanks so much to everyone who wrote, produced, and otherwise helped out with this show.
And a special mention, because I forgot to do so on stage, for Jamie Clarke, who did tech for us with such incredible precision and talent, despite only having a single run through and a million last minute instructions. Jamie: you are an absolute star.
We will be back with Next Level Sketch on 28th September, with special guests Egg. Come along!?
Next Level Sketch’s August show was written by Muireann Kelly, James Walsh, Paul Creasy, Rob Smyth, Jenna Cole, John Dredge, Dan Smith, Roderick Millar, Sarit Wilson Chen, Jonas Jamarik, and Charles Hutchence.
It was performed by Sarit Wilson Chen, Jenna Cole, Manisha Patel, Paul Creasy, Roderick Millar, Madeleine Kasson and James Walsh.
Tech was by Jamie Clarke and the door was personed by Maddi Sainsbury.
Poster by Madeleine Horsley.
Next Level Sketch is produced by James Walsh, Muireann Kelly, Nadine Bailey, Euan Brown and Paul Creasy.
All photos and drawings by Euan Brown.
 We’re trying to stick to a 6-7 person cast, for lingering pandemic reasons