Having gone out on a limb and agreed to review some comedy, thankfully I was in for an amusing hour. While not entirely side-splitting, I can appreciate Sexy in the Middle as a skilful stab at a difficult gig.
The small audience size – even by BT standards – did not initially inspire confidence. However, this was probably due to a lack of marketing, and potentially to the fact that the show is only in second week. Once Derek (Mitchell) and Kathy (Maniura) arrived onstage, panting from ‘running up from Gloucester Green bus station’, I felt the audience relax into a safe and experienced pair of hands.
The most striking thing about this show is the strength of connection between Mitchell and Maniura. It seems obvious to point out, but without this this comedy duo would have struggled their way through the material. A particularly endearing moment to watch was when Mitchell took the stage to perform a monologue as Maniura’s ‘failed actress’ mother, leaving her sat in the front row and watching in peals of laughter. It is amazing to think that, despite presumably having seen Mitchell run the gag several times, Maniura could still be amused and show such keen support in her temporary role as audience member.
Other highlights include a final gag that involves Maniura pulling up an audience member and leading him suggestively offstage. Then stuck with a punter on the wrong side of one of the BT’s tiny stage flats, the next section begins as if Maniura has found him there, ‘on the wrong side of the fourth wall’. It was little touches like this that made the show, which featured an impressively broad spectrum of subject matter: why ‘Boots’ doesn’t sell boots, the current European political climate, and Elaine Paige, while maintaining a good level of detail throughout.
The two had command of the space, and the hour spent watching them – which incidentally they made self-deprecating mention of, ‘at least it’s only an hour’ – felt well-paced and didn’t drag. The mixture of accents, and indeed, that Maniura approaches speech with RP and Mitchell is American, was used to good effect throughout; as was the addition of music.
The original narrative of the pair meeting up again after ten years and performing a slot at the BT manages just about to cling on when it is reintroduced in the show’s conclusion, though it did feel like we had travelled very far from those opening sentiments. Some of the sketches from the core of the show had greater individual impact, and perhaps this can be put down to the need for a stronger overarching plot, which would be more memorable in the first place.
Lack of a presence left over from the Edinburgh Fringe should not put you off going to see this show. As with most comedy, some sketches fell flatter than others, but none left dead silence in the room. I’ll be honest, I still don’t really know what it means to be ‘Sexy in the Middle’, but indeed the middle of the show was funny; I came away thinking of the evening as an interesting opportunity, and that Mitchell and Maniura show real potential.