Trying to sell a unique perspective can be rather difficult. You may have a singular idea that you want to present to your audience, but you’re still left with the sensitive issue of structural execution. How well you execute your idea doesn’t just come down to the unique selling point, it also needs other more streamlined ideas to help prop up your vision so you’re not left wasting the potential of your key idea. This is where Mixtape, a sketch comedy/music quiz hybrid, flounders tremendously.
On paper Mixtape sounds like a winning format. A group of performers humorously act out the lyrical content of a song. The audience then has to guess (either in teams or individually) the song and artist by writing their answers down on a sheet of paper which, at the end of each round, is swapped with another group for marking (high school flashback right there). A simple, yet largely unique premise in the world of sketch improv comedy, as the performers are forced to strike a balance between playing for laughs and trying to be reliable quiz masters. This is where Mixtape starts to stutter as the balance quickly swings towards the quiz master end of the spectrum, leaving behind an array of shallow, unfocused sketches.
A majority of sketches rely on the performers saying the song lyrics in loud, silly accents while pulling goofy faces with very little regard to the sketche’s structure. A loud voice will boom “war cabinet” over the speakers and then the performers will come out and barely acknowledge the set up of the sketch. Instead of trying to act out the lyrics in relation to the set up, the performers would rather just shout (even scream) the lyrics at the audience while doing their best to emulate the campiness of an outdated “Carry On” film. There were even times when I seriously expected tiresome catchphrases to form, with jaunty sitcom music and canned laughter to follow abruptly.
Essentially Mixtape is a bit of a mess, however it does show glimmers of enthusiasm and a light-hearted approach to the quiz format. The audience interactions were also something to be admired as the performers regularly used the crowd to their advantage (such as using an audience member as an ironing board for one of the sketches). Overall, Mixtape is a rather non threatening piece of theater that is somewhat fine to waste an hour on. But with a £10 price tag and a glowing advertising campaign, that entices you in with the promise of a unique take on the improv sketch format, it seems the overall direction of the show diminishes any aspirations Mixtape may have held. Or maybe I’m just bitter because I failed to recognise “Magic Dance” by David Bowie as one of the songs being described to me through sketch. Either way there was no need for such a hollow experience in what should have been an interesting performance.
Kettle rating: 2/5
5th to 31st August
Venue: Underbelly, Cowgate
Duration: 60 Minutes
Price: £9 (with £1 booking fee)