The egalitarian instinct is always to downgrade a Cambridge Footlights sketch pair a notch or two. Sympathies lie with the solo strugglers from the provinces slogging it out in pub back rooms, not with a couple of rich kids trading under one of the most famous Fringe brands of all, at one of the biggest venues of all. Then again, positive discrimination shouldn’t rule out recognising a good job done well and Studio 9 is definitely that.
Besides, Will Hall and Leo Reich do great self-awareness. An opening sketch has them voicing a heart-rending fundraising ad for private schools. There’s also acknowledgement that since we are in Edinburgh, all the audiences are Londoners, and a throwaway about how doing a Scottish sketch might be offensive. Such is their hairshirting, they might just have gotten away with one.
The framing of this sketch show is lightweight – they’re a duo auditioning for a TV pilot at the eponymous studio. The through line is an intermittently funny product placement gag. They’re not the most visually arresting of sketch troupes either – their “look”, such as it is, is choral scholar.
But it’s very tight. Sketches are snappy, end with a punchline, lighting cue, move on. They’re very well drilled. There’s not much recycling going on either. Only a plummy wartime couple make much of a reappearance, the husband urging the wife during their tearful farewell to do preposterous things. Middle class mums and millennial seagulls form the basis for other slightly extended sketches, but most are over in a flash, working quickly to a single pay-off rather than dallying about hoping we find something funny on the way. Most of them are direct hits.
Inverse snobbery overcome, the boys done good.