Among many other British acts tackling Australia for the first time this year, London’s sketch trio Sleeping Trees are playing Adelaide for the whole Fringe – and seem to be loving it. It’s hard to sell insincere enthusiasm, though these impish, cheeky boys would probably be happy performing anywhere.
The youthful exuberance of Joshua George Smith, James Dunnell-Smith and John Woodburn is the motor inside World Tour, their latest (and apparently tenth) sketch composite. The conceit being that these gentlemen have been on some globetrotting adventures during the past year, and use the Campanile stage to get each other up to speed. But given that the performers’ background has been enacting surreal, energetic takes on genre films (in a comedy sketch show format, of course), that taste for the cinematic shines through in every madcap skit they inhabit.
They possess such extraordinary range (vocal, physical, comic) that you’ll scarcely believe that the deranged characters they conjure could come from such polite, well-spoken chaps. From a hostage situation flipped on its head, to a musical number sung by famous walls, to a layered aeroplane scenario, the Trees make excellent use of their ‘holiday anecdote’ format – and do it all with zero props or staging.
The only weakness is that messy stuff before, and between, the sketches – though that’s the foil of many a sketch troupe. Fortunately the sketches themselves are tremendous flights of dark fancy, inventive and well written. They even leave the door slightly ajar to mess with each other, and it’s those snatches of improv within their tight scenes that spark the brightest.