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The Leeds Tealights: Imposters Review

Shit, they’ve done it again! The Tealights’ second show at the Lending Room was once again a clean-cut, sophisticated and utterly hilarious night of sketch comedy.

Tealights: Raiders of the Lost Sketches last semester was so memorable- people are genuinely still talking about it- that I was worried my expectations would be too high this time around. I was not disappointed. In fact, while I didn’t mention the support act for the previous show, I do feel compelled to this time around. Rob Preston, a former Tealights member himself, was a brilliant warm-up. It was clear that he shared the same standard as the current group and his topical, self-deprecating humour (commentary on no longer being a student, his mother being a therapist etc.) was particularly well received by the crowd. Having been informed about the show very late-notice and therefore having written his act four hours prior, I’m definitely eager to what he’s capable of when he’s had more time to prepare.

One of my favourite aspects of Tealights themselves is the fact that they always start off strong. I feel that, in comedy, it can often take a while for both audience and performer to warm up, but we were laughing within the first few seconds as Ben Williams and Archie Osmond, playing two newsreaders, very seriously drummed their legs along to the BBC News theme tune. While there was some stumbling over lines throughout the first couple of sketches, no joke missed a beat or landed poorly. I give great credit to the group for the way in which they expertly thread mistakes into aspects of the sketches, which are often as funny as the sketches themselves and consistently add to the humour rather than take away from it. For example, Osmond’s facial expression when he sang a line from Billy Elliot a little too early, so that the original voice played awkwardly after, made everyone really laugh. This well-judged almost-breaking of character adds such quality and uniqueness to a performance that it feels like you’re never watching them just go through the motions, and that you’re getting something new every night. This, intertwined with the meta-theatrical elements of the production (which centred around the Tealights’ identities being stolen by the ‘West Yorkshire Fleshlights’) was brilliant.

Once again, it’s hard to choose my favourite sketches, and even more difficult to describe them without losing the comedy. But to give a few examples: Ben Williams plays a donkey adopted, and subsequently forgotten, by Charlotte Hutchinson at the age of 15, Billy Elliot wants to be a boxer at the disgust of his ballet dancing father, Kieran Price has only written 50 words of his essay and needs an extension so can you give him mumps, and God and Jesus talk about their best-selling book, the Bible. The multitude of sketches which vary widely in theme means you never know what you’re getting next, from Kieran’s apocalyptic YouTube channel to his and Emma Dodd’s woke football chants. The sketches themselves go to places you’re never able to anticipate, which makes the crowd’s reactions when the joke lands part of the experience. The relatability of the student-centred sketches, very topically referencing essays, mumps and low fi beats, allowed the audience to simultaneously laugh at themselves and feel like part of a community.

It was also interesting to see how they utilised the group members. Price and Dodd were completely new for the last set of shows, and therefore Hutchinson, Osmond and Williams led a good deal of the sketches. But it was great to see Price and Dodd coming into their own more this time around, with a new confidence and more experience. In my opinion, the balance was even better this time around, and still allowed for Hutchinson (president of the Tealights) to have the well-deserved limelight at times, and for the Osmond-Williams chemistry to shine through a great deal, which I was hoping for as they are always brilliant together. The group bring their own ideas to the table during the writing process, which they then flesh out together, and I think this idea of individual humour, which is then made possible through team effort, definitely shows. It’s clear that they’re a great team (friends in real life!) and that makes their performances so natural as they are clearly very comfortable together and encouraging of one another. It is this interplaying of personalities which works so well.

Overall, the only bad thing about this show is that I have no constructive criticism to give it. The Tealights, in my view, are experts at what they do and never seem to let you down. Everyone left still laughing, and I think that says it all.

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