Sketch comedy supergroup Tarot arrives on stage with raccoon eye makeup and white nightdresses with an enthusiasm that few performers could muster at 10am, let alone 10pm. The group – Ed Easton and Kath Hughes from Gein’s Family Giftshop and Adam Drake of Goose – have a kind of dynamic that feels more like a family than a tacked-together group of comedians. They feed off each other’s energy, anticipate each other’s movements, and for the next hour, we are treated to a lesson in how sketch comedy should be done.
The sketches include a deranged Birds Eye commercial audition, a game of Never Have I Ever that takes a surprising turn and a tour led by Dracula that had the audience howling with laughter. Some of the best punchlines come from unpredictability, and the audience is kept on their toes. The show, directed by Kiri Pritchard-McLean, is very tightly written but with enough ad-libbing to keep things fresh. The impromptu nature of some of the gags means that you’ll see a different show every night, which means you could happily go for a repeat viewing of Cautionary Tales.
Setups are built up, knocked down and rebuilt with glee. There’s a mixture of tones and as many properly clever sketches as bloody silly ones. The material is excellent but what really elevates proceedings is the chemistry of the performers and the way they feed off each other and the audience. The crowd is on board from start to finish, and it feels like the energy in the room could power a whole street. Sketch comedy used to be a mainstay of British telly, and the move away from the format is a sad state of affairs. But, thankfully, there will always be a home for the format at the Fringe, and as Tarot chants, ‘Sketch will never die!’