Grubby Little Mitts is the debut Fringe show from sketch duo Rosie Nicholls and Sullivan Brown. This fact is more than a little surprising given the pair have arrived seeming fully-formed with a conveyor belt of inventive sketches and chemistry to burn.
The duo introduce themselves with a flirty mime to Wet Leg‘s ‘Chaise Longue‘. A neat start on its own terms. They then retrieve an actual chaise longue from backstage, which becomes something of a fulcrum prop for every subsequent sketch. This, along with the pair’s penchant for the colour red, provides a simple but distinctive identity.
Nicholls and Brown quickly confirm themselves as talented performers, with an innate sense of how far to push a premise, and the use of repetition for comic effect. For example, gifted singer Nicholls gets a series of scenarios in which she gives a flawless rendition of a popular song but hits one line hideously off-key; an update of the classic, ‘all the right notes in the wrong order’ Morecambe and Wise skit. It would be funny on its own. Applied to further increasingly absurd situations, it’s fantastic.
Both Nicholls and Brown are extremely versatile, but some certain characteristics shine through. Nicholls is a master of the awkward pause (one use of which has Brown visibly restraining himself from corpsing), and in another repeated scenario, hits a slightly unnerving form of caffeine-addled seductiveness that threatens to tip into derangement at any moment. Brown meanwhile is unafraid to play a certain kind of wheedling masculine toxicity. A few sketches use this to hit a jarring note of discomfort in the humour; a light-footed acknowledgement of more serious subjects.
Perhaps the best sketch sees Brown shift this persona towards something softer and more damaged. Brown initially starts off commentating John Motson-style on Nicholls folding up some clothes. It’s entirely consistent with the pair’s work up to this point and, again, works perfectly well on its own terms. Then a rug is pulled and the dynamic is changed in an instant towards something genuinely poignant.
A great debut hour from a massively talented duo culminates with a gory spin on Andy Williams‘ ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You‘ which encapsulates the ethos of Nicholls & Brown nicely; determined silliness with a hint of something darker. The small but appreciative audience leave as obvious converts. Even the occasional infant gurgle from the tiniest member of the crowd sounds far more like encouragement than heckle.