“That was silly” observes a giggling audience member at the conclusion of this high-tempo, surreal sketch show. Indeed, this production must be the jolliest, best acted, most polished silliness at this year’s Fringe.
In Conspiracy, the five members of Dutch Elm Conservatoire, directed by Ed Curtis, become a team of agents working for an improbable investigative organisation in Bracknell. This central premise provides the narrative from which emerge a variety of sketches loosely based around the central theme of conspiracy. It is an artfully constructed production, never lacking in pace, with humour coming from a combination of absurd situations, quick-fire one-liners and clever characterisation. Forced by financial crisis to take on a plethora of bizarre cases, the team contact aliens in Sting’s back garden, agree to assassinate a foreign businessman and intercept an insane German scientist who is attempting to clone Jesus. Throughout their adventures they manage to stay on the right side of good taste, largely due to the likeability of the characters and absurdity of the situations they find themselves in. In this manner they get away with tackling material, such as the death of Princess Diana, which if attempted by a stand-up comedian would face grimaces of distaste (and accusations of reliance on dated material).
Intelligent, varied and unashamedly daft, this thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining show is a superb example of the sketch show genre. It will appeal to pretty much everyone; even hard-nut conspiracy theorists will see the funny side.