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Scenes Unseen: A Riotous Comedy Showcase

Local theatre troupe, Look Sharp Theatre, in partnership with stage@Leeds, brought another set of new scripts to life in a hilarious night of comedy. Hosted by Lewis Fraser, who kicked off the night with a set of character comedy, embodying a past-their-prime children’s presenter, entertained the audience with quips about the 2008 housing market crash, and landed the biggest laugh when it became apparent that the audience was too Gen Z to appreciate this reference. Fraser also ensured that the night was a safe and welcoming environment, especially as the actors had very limited rehearsal time and some had not performed before, as well as reminding audience members that they could leave whenever they needed to.

The Sean & Gerry Breakfast Show by Fintan Morrison, Jack Gallagher & Niall McCarthy.

First up was an extract that came through the BBC Writersroom. By performing in front of an audience, it gave an opportunity for the writing-trio (who were not there in person but would watch the recording back) to see if their jokes actually landed. And by jove they did! This take on a breakfast radio show resembled sketch comedy with almost every line ending in laughter and one actor having to juggle multiple roles with only a minor prop to visually distinguish each character, which became a theatre in-joke in itself. The script balanced dialogue with the excellent use of pre-recorded sounds, and fully transformed the audience to the absolute banter of early morning FM. I’ve seen other sketches that poke fun at the awkward dynamics of early morning entertainment duos, but even with basic staging, this attempt had plenty of potential to continue the in-jokes of limited resources, or to go down the tech-heavy route. My only real qualm was that I was left wondering if the characterisation was sexist – the two female characters came across as ditzy, while the men were authoritative. Of course, this could have been an attempt to problematize and satirize the male-dominance and sexism within the broadcasting industry, yet this could have been made clearer to avoid reproducing such discrimination.

The Seed of the Holyman by Leo Thomas.

Next was another extract from the BBC Writersroom. Excitingly, this began with some audience participation, pulling a seemingly unaware audience-member out of their seat to replace a “missing” cast member. This theme continued throughout the play with another actor, representing the audience, planted in the actual audience, and led to the audience joining in with their boos and cheers. In what is clearly an ambitiously conceptual piece, The Seed of the Holyman follows self-proclaimed thespians in the seventeenth century putting on a play about a corrupt cardinal, this extract could not have been more different from the Breakfast Show, and yet such variety in comedy styles is an asset to the Scenes Unseen programme. Without wanting to compare the extracts too much, it was obvious again that theatre in-jokes landed the biggest laughs, from self-righteous directors telling actors to stop acting to quaint hand-made props. While I felt that having to perform a short extract was particularly challenging given the play’s complexities, the cast managed to pull it off; instead of confusion, the aha moments made for the best comedy.

All is Pink in West Berkshire County by Harry Daisley.

The final piece was from a local playwright, whose plays have already been performed by Open Theatre Society. As Fraser emphasised, this represents Look Sharp’s desire to support home-grown talent – if there are any Leeds writers out there who have scripts they want to try out and get feedback on, Look Sharp will find a director and cast to perform at their next Scenes Unseen. Daisley’s play takes place in the home of an upper middle-class family hosting their daughter and her new boyfriend at Christmas. With an appropriately sardonic wit, Daisley mocks the father’s toxic masculinity and the body-shaming mother. (Having grown up in the neighbouring county of Oxfordshire, I can testify for the prejudices of this social set.) While reading out the long list of content warnings, Fraser insisted that it is meant to be funny. Indeed, this play is a satire of Southern, privileged whiteness, adding to a plethora of recent media that pokes fun at the elites in society. Given the aforementioned limited time that the casts had to practise, I was advised to focus my review on the writing. However, the chemistry between the two leads, and the performance of the chortling, boozy father in particular, was so good that I cannot not mention it.

Scenes Unseen was an entertaining carousel of comedy, and a format which I hope they continue. It not only fosters emerging writing-talent in an encouraging environment, but also provides the audience with an evening of laughs, through completely different takes on comedy writing. If you are interested in seeing your writing on stage or just being a supportive audience member, you can visit Look Sharp Theatre’s website or follow them on Instagram @looksharptheatre

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