Caroline Mabey: Quetzals

★★
comedy review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Caroline Mabey
Published 12 Aug 2017

For a comedy set ostensibly about memory, Caroline Mabey seems to have forgotten how to write good jokes. This is no slight against her as a performer; she’s still engaging, sharp and confident at working the room. In fact, her strongest moments in Quetzals are those when interacting with the audience – and it’s an audience that she does, in fairness, consistently win back.

But she’s having to win them back time and time again because the majority of her punchlines are landing flat. And it’s a shame because there’s clearly an experienced hand holding that gag-writing pencil—and the more involved, prop-based skits too—but it seems her edge has dulled. As her delivery becomes increasingly shaky, so too does our trust in her – to the extent that her repeated reminder of our modern age—“it’s 2016, guys!”—sounds like a genuine error rather than joke on memory.

Which takes us to the central point. Mabey covers a lot of ground, musing on identity, memory, cakes and Scrabble. The hour is kept varied with occasional games and, of course, the set piece from the programme blurb (an attempt to recount all 103 allowable two-letter Scrabble words). But the prop stuff is wilfully shambolic without really being that funny (far from the likes of Seymour Mace or Spencer Jones), with the set piece itself being ultimately underwhelming.

Given there’s an intended theme here, it’s disappointing that the material falls so short of the vision – both in terms of its physical execution and actual funniness. But give her a room of chatty punters to bounce off and you’d be onto a winner.