Swallowed Whole - TORONTO FRINGE 2019 REVIEW

Swallowed Whole - TORONTO FRINGE 2019 REVIEW

I’ve never been one to really “Get” sketch shows. Out the gate, I recognize that they do not need a story, or coherence, or even any connection at all between them. With this in mind, I think it’s important to establish that even though the sketches have little if anything to do with each other, there is a “tone” here that is undoubtedly Rachel Perry.

The actors are all up for the challenge. Chris O'Bray, Carly Telford and Raechel Fisher are undoubtedly having a great time playing with such absurdist comedy routines and are never afraid to get their hands dirty- sometimes quite literally.

Rachel does a great job of playing with absurdity. Her sketches are at their best when they take a silly concept and really expand on it. Some of my favourites were when a character awakes to find himself eaten by a sea lion, only to then surface again later in a bear with Jennifer Love Hewitt. (spoilers btw). Rachel is at her best when she is going more absurd and I would have loved to have seen more content that really dives into the absurdity with full force.

Onto my personal biases- as a storyteller I often want more. A sketch show is the perfect avenue for a series of absolutely ridiculous off the wall antics that fire at the audience with such rapid unscrupulous force that they simply have to bathe in them. This show would have been perfect for that, especially with how sardonic and dry Rachel’s antics tend to be. I want to see more content like the crazed neighbour lady and her poor kitchen show. I want to see more like the dating games with ghosts to see which one will possess the bachelorette. I want more. She is so good at constructing the most absurd and crazed situations that I feel like the major thing that lets her down is the pacing. As a personal preference, I wish this show could have had five times as many of her crazy ideas, with the sketches lasting half as long. Each sketch has a tendency to go on a bit too long so the joke begins to wear thin. While still funny, I feel like this alternate approach would have made it absolutely hilarious. I love good British humour and feel like she’s at her best when she draws upon her more Monty Python instincts with quick shifts between the sketches, and random events happening in rapid fire succession.

My other minor quibble has to do with the songs. While they are hilarious and absurd, I feel like the use of repetition tends to make them feel more slow than anything else. Traditional song structure demands the chorus of course, but in comedy, with each subsequent singing of the same chorus, it loses a touch of it’s punch. If each verse can have a minor alteration that extends the gag, it would go a long way to making it truly raucous.

Obviously this is just a preference thing, and as it stands, the audience was in stitches throughout. Her sight gags are quick and clever, the energy undeniable and the performances hilarious.. The entire show was a lot of fun and is a worthy show to see with any sketch loving friends.

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