It has always puzzled me why the ANU never birthed its own in-house comedy group earlier. The legendary University of Cambridge club, Footlights, was somehow able to emerge in the inauspicious 1880s, an era when prudish morals dominated the social scene and the mawkish novels of Dickens were inexplicably held up as the par excellence in comic writing. Yet until very recently the ANU remained a comparatively somber place for thespians. Nowadays the National University Theatre Society (NUTS) seems to leap from ambition to ambition, somehow escaping any sense of vertigo with each creative step (Cambridge boasts about five dramatic societies but for now NUTS is a great start), and with the arrival of Satyros ANU is at last beginning to get a sense of humour.
But if Satyros’ contribution to the Canberra Comedy Festival, ‘Coy Biscuit’, is anything to go by, the club is still having teething troubles. While the performance itself had a bright, infectious energy, and the cast shared a comic timing that came naturally and with ease, it felt at particular moments that the lads and ladettes of Satyros were more concerned about having a good time together than grabbing the audience’s adoration. While Satyros remains an ambitious comedy club determined to announce itself as a fresh, vibrant presence on the local comedy circuit last night’s performance lacked a definite focus. It remained a pleasure to watch, but there was nothing that left you bent over your chair, bleary-eyed, chest wracking painfully with laughter.
Doubtless this had something to do with the material. When a sketch worked it worked well. Pieces like One Last Time—a noir spoof—and Lion Hunt felt polished and taut, the performers all the better because they were confident in the material. However when they were less certain about ideas the audience could smell it like blood in the water. There was a running gag about minor terminal illnesses but the cast never seemed capable of developing the concept so the related jokes often felt stillborn as a result. A sketch like Intermission, based on the premise that the audience had sixty seconds to refresh themselves but couldn’t as the announcer kept babbling throughout that period about how they only had sixty seconds to refresh themselves, felt forced and dragged on another forty seconds after the audience had latched onto the joke.
However while sometimes patchy, the material definitely showed promise—the wordplay was often sharp enough to cut your tongue on and the gang’s sense of structure and timing had a natural ease to it. The pretence that a ruinous love triangle was undermining the show was a delightful conceit that gave a focused continuity to the whole thing and was timed well enough to always grab a chorus of laughs from the audience.
Overall, it was a solid performance and definitely a good night out. Certainly with just a bit more polish, Satyros will doubtless leave us all helpless with laughter—a comedy group to look out for.
For those interested in finding out more about Satyros their Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/SatyrosComedy