Sketch comedy is a staple part of any self-respecting Fringe, but it does tend to be dominated by groups rather than solo performers. It’s hardly surprising, given the hectic costume changes and multiple accents involved to make your characters stand out.
That’s why, on paper at least, Bryony Twydle’s show seems risky, considering she’s also part of sketch group The Jest. In Twaddle, she performs every single character – with a little help from the audience – in the space of an hour, with subjects including a very direct Greek sex therapist and a harassed Croatian nanny. It would be easy to be over-ambitious and let the accents or the character traits slip, but Twydle pulls it off – no sex therapist pun intended – with aplomb. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, as she was one of Funny Women’s ‘One to Watch’ last year, and a semi-finalist in the 2015 Funny Women Awards.
The reason Twaddle works so well is her clever structuring overall, as it gradually becomes clear the characters are interlinked. A one-sided phone conversation is later seen from the other end of the line, mid-Zumba class; even her opening figure, the full-on driver awareness course leader Vicky Spuvell, becomes more significant by the end of the show.
However, unlike some solo sketch comedians I’ve seen, Twydle doesn’t keep flipping back to play previous characters, repeating their catchphrases and taking on too much. Instead, she typically gives the audience one glimpse of each character – albeit some are on for a bit too long, like Hector, the private school kid whose emotional eating is out of control, and his uptight mother, Helen, the only character to be repeated on stage. I much preferred jaded QVC presenter Lisa Martinez Moore and her interesting gadgets.
Had some audience members in the front row known they’d be part of the show, they probably would have lurked at the back of the room instead, but Twydle is wise enough to use them for short stints and not prolonged scenes (I’m sure we can all recall shows where some poor victim has been dragged on stage for 10 minutes or more). However, she may have got more than she bargained for in last night’s audience picks, as participant Will was as quick with the comebacks as she was, adding an extra layer of comedy to the therapy segment.
By the time Twydle brings the show to a close, you get that ‘aha’ moment of realising how many characters’ names and phrases link together, and a sense of satisfaction that you’ve seen storytelling as well as a bunch of memorable figures. Unlike poor Lisa Martinez Moore’s dubious QVC products, Bryony Twydle should prove popular.’