The New Red Lion, sister pub of the Old Red Lion, obviously, being as it is a ten minutes walk away and having the same ambiguous lion-themed toilet doors, only opened last month, but is going some way to proving its comedy chops this weekend as it played host to sketch threesome Pappy’s and surreal sextet Ladygarden.
Venue-wise, it’s charming in a ramshackle way, which we’re told is deliberately kitsch – the windows are blacked out so it is mostly impossible to know whether the place is open or not unless there is someone smoking outside, and the large bar-cum-stage space inside is littered with spindly old chairs and overstuffed cushions. It feels like someone’s front room, only bigger, and with a stickier floor.
The ramshackle theme extended to the order of the acts, but not the content: Pappy’s, the headliners, ended up playing support to Ladygarden, both playing on the mix-up for laughs. The appeal of Pappy’s, and probably the reason their translation to TV didn’t quite work, is the interplay between the three of them – most of the joy of the show is watching a chaotic Tom Parry trying to make Ben Clark corpse, mostly successfully, while Matthew Crosby just about keeps a sense of order. Not to say the sketches don’t work on their own – one, involving Parry pogo-ing across the stage in a dressing gown and wearing a trunk had us in tears.
Pappy’s are a hard act to follow, especially when they were meant to headline – Ladygarden were good, but fell a little flat by comparison. Their completely surreal entrance – sending on a troupe of doppelgänger 8-year-old’s in their stead, to the audience’s delight – set the tone of the ensuing hour, which is ‘never quite knowing what’s happening but laughing anyway.’ A couple of the sketches were more miss than hit and ended with more of a whimper than a bang, and the prop gags especially (an R/C helicopter and some tiny Russian dolls accompanied by a prerecorded sketch-track) seemed unsuited to live sketch comedy, especially with six whole comics waiting in the wings. They have great chemistry (and singing-voices), which will stand them in good stead for future shows. Skits where they broke the fourth wall a little and started a fight with the lighting girl showed Ladygarden’s real potential but they suffered slightly from following the more experienced troupe. We suggest you catch their forthcoming gigs for some live-action, completely unfilmable comedy.
By Joel Golby