Laughing Stock is a four-piece sketch troupe that have been garnering quite a reputation over the last few years, one that is thoroughly well deserved.  Composed of Arabella Gibbins, Lewis Doherty, Phoebe Higson and Rhys Bevan, the foursome spice up the standard sketch format with formidable acting skills and musical interludes; the addition of which puts one in mind of an exuberant comedy ABBA.  Gibbins in particular impresses with an assured use of guitar, keyboards and flute, along with a fine singing voice.

Besides the additional influences of other disciplines, what separates Laughing Stock from many other sketch troupes is an appreciation of subtlety.  They’re happy to let a scenario to breathe and resist the urge to force a punchline.  At times it appears they’ve allowed a sketch to drift away into the ether leaving a nagging sensation of wasted potential.  Never fear though.  They know exactly what they’re doing, and the yin-yang structure of the writing is revealed gradually.  This is a group of people entirely confident in their abilities, and with the belief that the audience will go with it.  They may not hurl skit after skit at warp speed, but it all plays to their strengths as they create actual characters rather than ciphers on which to drape a punchline.

They have a penchant for the depiction of social awkwardness in all its forms.  There are fighting couples galore, and extended character studies left unresolved; only to be revisited later from an unexpected angle.  The cowboy sketch and its reprise are a particular highlight; expanding a simple premise and mining every excruciating moment of repressed longing.  There is however one sketch with a punchline that is awfully similar to a classic Smack the Pony skit.  Again, it’s brilliantly performed, but it seems unlikely they wouldn’t be aware of it.  Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

It’s unlikely you’ll find a sketch troupe quite as adventurous, talented and professional as Laughing Stock at the Fringe.  These multi-talented performers seem to have it all.  Their chemistry together is undeniable, and they seem equally comfortable with all the many-faceted aspects of their stage craft.  It would almost be a bit sickening if they weren’t so downright entertaining.