Is sketch comedy a long dead artform, resigned only to occasional resurrection from its grave like a limp finger puppet? Or has the burgeoning revival we keep being told about finally taken glorious flight? According to Mudcrabs Go Wild!, the new show by the Mudcrabs (somehow short for the stolid sounding Melbourne University Comedy Revue Board), neither is correct. The sketches are delivered with such sincerity and conviction that it almost persuades you to forget the tired dialogue and predictable punchlines and just have a good time.
That’s just where the strengths of Mudcrabs Go Wild! lie: its performances. It becomes clear in the opening five minutes of energetic character acting and frenzied musical bursts that the next 90 minutes will be a showcase of the enthusiastic cast. Comic timing, physicality and eccentric incorporations of song are always approached with deep commitment to the form. It’s impressive when one member, Esther Cowen, launches into an all-out verbal assault on the rest of the cast, or when Joe Jackson gives a taste of his superb singing voice. Other highlights include Nicola Kuiper’s use of accents to delineate a singular sense of humour, and James Gordon’s erratic delivery to craft a deeply unhinged stage persona.
It is a shame that the actual script does not take into consideration the importance of culture and keeping up-to-date when it comes to comedy. Making jokes about Oscar Pistorius does not count as topical commentary and hasn’t counted as topical commentary for two years. But no matter, because at least Mudcrabs didn’t go for any low-blows about his murder conviction; no, they chose, rather, to make fun of his disability. And if ridiculing a minority group isn’t an eternal pot of comedy gold, I don’t know what is. The problem isn’t with the actors, we can be sure of that much, certainly. And the jokes aren’t bad. The problem is, they’re just not very good. Thankfully, these jokes come off less as offensive cheap shots and more as tepid streams of consciousness from a drunk uncle at a wedding.
All in all, despite some predictable sketches, occasionally questionable content and an over-reliance on running gags, the show is genuinely funny and engaging for its 90 minute one-act runtime. And that’s a long time to maintain such a high level of energy. Mudcrabs Go Wild!may not make a convincing argument for sketch comedy, but it does make an entertaining one.
Mudcrabs’ production of Mudcrabs Gone Wild! ran from the 11-14th of April at the Guild Theatre.