Sailing in safe waters
by Bruce Dessau
Last year the sketch group HMS Comedy sailed into the Edinburgh Festival with a show entitled Evolution. This year it has added a letter and a new theme. Revolution, currently being refined for the Fringe, examines the nature of change down the ages. The Pope is portrayed as the Godfather, making Galileo an offer he can't refuse. George Stephenson is so devoted to steam engines he wants to take the Rocket to bed.
Main writers Marc Blakewill and James Harris are well-served by Geoff Aymer, Samantha Sanns, Emma Thor-nett and Laurie Crowter. Sanns essays a particularly striking lip-curling impression of a monkey during a skit in which a patient can be saved only if a range of cuddly animals are subjected to experiments. Thornett, however, has more charisma, whether dancing, singing, doing accents or simply looking like Catherine Zeta-Jones. She could make a living as a fete-opening double for Mrs Douglas.
Thornett's high point was playing Mrs Pankhurst, who employs a sexist contemporary PR agency to promote the suffragette movement. Her low point was nearly choking on a pie during an inconsequential sketch about Einstein.
This was the most notable of a number of minor fluffs. There was also one major Fluff. A voiceover impersonation of Alan "Fluff " Freeman reading out a corn-fed Russian Revolution top ten. Anyone for Papa's Got A Brand New Gulag? The production might be called Revolution but there is nothing radical here. The quartet performs amiable take-it-home-to-meet- the- parents revue material with enthusiasm and charm that is more Radio 4 niceness than Channel 4 molotovs. If prizes were handed out for gusto this crew would win every time, but to compete at the cutting edge HMS Comedy needs to fire a few more muscular broadsides. Otherwise it will be sunk.