A popular soundbite often attributed to Cornwall is the description of it as a “cultural wasteland”. I have seen this written a fair few times in the last couple of years, and backed up by the assertions of both my Cornish and Non-Cornish friends that “there’s not a lot of talent in Cornwall now”.
Tonight, in a tiny brownie hall in the middle of Penryn, I saw the conclusive proof that these people are talking bollocks.
Dog With a Windy Face is a radio sketch show that has aired on The Source FM (Falmouth’s community radio station) over the last year, written and performed by the stunningly talented Barny Savage, Nicky Pasterfield, Nick Owen and Ross Kessell. But faced with an invite to perform at the Port Eliot festival this weekend, what were they going to do? The answer: Dog With a Windy Face – Live. Though tonight was only a dress rehearsal, it did serve as a pretty good indicator of what the Port Eliot show will be like. What a lucky audience they’ll be.
Comedy is, as it is, a tough thing to master. Transferring radio comedy into a visual format makes the job even tougher, and many shows have lost out on something…. something…. upon transferring from radio to, say, television. The two examples that I quote incessently are The Mighty Boosh – at least for a bit of the first series – and The Mitchell and Webb Look (formerly Sound), but as people really do tend to disagree with me on that I shall point out that Just a Minute and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue have had long distinguished radio careers but never successfully made it to television, because they lose something important when the transfer occurs. DWAWF Live (yes, but typing it so many times would get to me otherwise) manages this transfer as if it was nothing, and, aside from anything else the show achieves, that is in itself intensly impressive.
But the show does achieve so much more! The sketches are absolutely superb: tightly written and coming across, as all good sketches should, as if no work went into the writing of them whatsoever. Ranging from scathing social parodies to complete absurdity, they have acheived a wonderfully broad base of humour that will have lots of people laughing at different jokes to the person sitting next to them. Though the spreading of humour to appeal to lots of different groups is sometimes frowned upon in today’s “everything must have a demographic” world, and though it gives the show a slightly mismatched feel in places, I believe that, overall, it strengthens DWAWF as a show and its prospects when performed.
Though it is obvious to say, good writing can fall flat on its face if not properly performed. And this is where DWAWF really has an advantage, because not only are the team fantastic writers, but they more than match that skill when performing. Whether it’s Savage and Kessell’s more extreme characters (though Kessell’s Alan Bennett impersination certainly shows that he is not immune to the more subtle school of comedy) or Owen and Pasterfield’s realistic and finely tuned roles, you truly feel that they are not letting their scripts down. The most fantastic moments, of course, happen when both the styles combine to create a contrast that’s truly a joy to watch. Of course, though, some credit must go to Kate Lamerton-Wilde, who has been directing the group tirelessly for the Port Eliot performances and whose efforts have certainly not gone to waste. From argumentative couples to the dangers of forcing Death into early retirement, all have been rendered in a waythat not only suspends your disbelief, but makes you actively wish that reality could be as brilliant.
I strongly urge anyone who gets a chance to see or hear any of this group’s amazing work to do so without hesitation, especially if you’re one of those who feels that there’s no talent in Cornwall: you’ll never be so glad you were wrong.
For more information on Dog With a Windy Face, and to listen to the radio shows, go to http://www.dogwithawindyface.co.uk