Exposing our babies to sunlight (or: Sketch Read-through night)

A room above a tired pub on a rainy Wednesday night, and a snigger* of sketch writers gather together to read out their creations.

Sketch read-through nights are one my favourite parts of the “Brain to Stage” Next Level sketch process. The people in our group give such excellent feedback, the sketches people bring along are consistently funny, and everyone is nice. It sure beats sitting in the house being judged silently by the cat.

Once written, I have no idea if any of my babies – I’ve decided to call my sketches my babies, I’m sorry – are any good. They gurgle and burble and shit themselves out of my brain onto the page, and I love all my children equally. I am not equipped to be objective about them. In my view they all deserve to be beautiful princesses.

It’s only sharing sketches with friends that makes me understand which ideas have a hope of working, and which ones would be best locked in the metaphorical basement and never spoken of again.

Last night I was able to read out two sketches. 

One I was more confident about, despite some clear staging issues. So I read it out first. It got an ok reception and a few laughs, but even while watching it be performed** I could see it was a bit too long and was a bit clunky in places. 

The feedback after – including the suggestion it may have been in fact two sketches, squished into one, and that one line needed to be changed to ensure the power relationship was clearer and the punch was explicitly heading in the correct direction*** – was massively appreciated, funny, and extremely useful. Now I just have to decide whether the thing can be salvaged, or whether it would be kinder for all concerned to kick it down those dark imaginary stairs.

The second sketch was extremely, extremely stupid. I had written lyrics for it especially, as I think our shows could do with more musical interludes. But I wasn’t too confident about it, not least because, without giving anything away, it’s yet another sketch I appear to have written featuring a mode of transport.

But it got lots of laughs, and the feedback was very much more about tweaks and funny suggested minor changes, including confirmation that the panicked extra line I’d added at the end was completely unnecessary.

I – and we – now have until the 14th to edit and hone our sketches before submitting them for March’s show****. We’ve found in the previous couple of months that sketches that are updated and changed as per the group’s feedback tend to be the ones that make the showlist. It should be noted, though, that sometimes that feedback is “oh god, this is perfect. Please don’t change a thing”.

All sketches are princesses. But only some get to go to the ball.

*Collective nouns are decided by a shadowy government department.

**Often – usually – we take one of the roles in our own sketches when reading / performing them out to the group. This time, I tried just being a bystander.

*** Up. Always up.

**** Buy tickets! Our next show is on the 31st March at The Miller in London Bridge. W00t!

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