Boasting an all-star cast and the fine writing pedigree of David Cantor and Michael Kingsbury, Jumping the shark is set in a hotel conference room where five aspiring comedy writers are looking to learn from a legend and hopefully find their feet in a fierce industry.
It’s a strong setup and while the staging itself is quite bland, there are some nice details like the fire exit sign on the conference room door that adds to the feeling that the setting has been thought through and the details have been considered.
The first half of the play is the introduction to our characters and the general setting. It's mostly TED Talk’, where there are some excellent explanations of comedy processes, terminology and plot devices that arguably make this production worth seeing on its own.
Then we have the characters. I couldn’t decide on the journey home if the characters were a deliberate call-back to cliches of the past (Dale, played by Jack Trueman, reminded me a lot of Gaz from Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps for example) or if they were just their own slightly modernised cliched presentations. Either way, we are introduced to two down-on-their-luck actors, a mouthy ‘lad’, an introverted loner type and a young enthusiastic studious sort. Plus of course, the successful writer whose seminar it is. It’s a decent mix and sets up some interactions that are entertaining if not often particularly original.
Each character does have a little more to them than meets the eye (no spoilers, of course) but personally, I didn’t find the development of any of the characters to be particularly outstanding and there are huge signposts right from the beginning to the developments that take place during the second half which takes away any real surprise element.
The second half itself is a series of comedy sketches written and performed by the characters and then dissected by the ‘industry expert’, Frank (played by David Schaal) and it’s in this dissection that we see things change and the characters grow as far as they are able.
Sarah Moyle shines as Pam. For me, hers is the standout performance of the evening and she somehow manages to breathe a little more life into her slice of the humdrum script.
Not to say that Robin Sebastian (as Gavin) and Harry Visinoni (as Morgan) don’t have their moments too and throughout their sections there are some laughs and good reactions from the audience but the climax of the piece is designed to be the interaction between Amy, played by Jasmine Armfield, and Frank (David Schaal) and I’m sorry to say that neither were able to make their characters shine and as such that all fell a little flat for me.
I don’t think there’s any denying that it’s an interesting idea, and with some genuinely interesting sections, it’s not without its redeeming features but overall, I have to say that for me, Jumping the Shark falls short of being Catch of the Day.
It runs until 12 March.
Review: Damien Russell Photo: Robert Armstrong