Content warnings: Parental guidance is recommended for audiences aged under 13.
David Massingham brought his solo sketch comedy show, Little Sketch Book of Horrors, to Big Fork Theatre just in time for Halloween. Part of the Fringe Brisbane programme, this was classic sketch comedy at its best – a hilarious and highly polished performance loaded with ghouls and giggles.
A slasher killer training program. A dark and stormy night in Professor Van Helsing’s library. A haunted portrait gallery. A post-apocalyptic church sermon. An English language conference. Massingham’s sketches took the audience across time and space, conjuring absurd situations and memorable characters with clever wordplay and ample pop culture references. Like bad luck, a number of the recurring bits came in threes, sprinkled throughout and evolving slightly with each iteration as they set up and then subverted audience expectations.
Massingham welcomed the audience to the show and introduced the overarching premise: his character was searching for the Little Sketch Book of Horrors, in order to read us a ghost story. This central thread tied the show together without intruding on the sketches, and the sketches themselves often referred back to each other, creating a strong sense of cohesion overall.
An easel on one side of the stage provided context or setting for some of the sketches, and Massingham cycled through an impressive range of props and costumes. He played his characters with absolute conviction, delivering an expressive and engaging performance over the course of an hour and 10+ characters. His sense of comedic timing was impeccable, and the whole performance was well-paced.
The possibility of participation by the audience was established from the opening moments and buy-in was increased steadily and skilfully throughout the show. Audience participation always introduces an element of uncertainty, but Massingham set clear parameters and expectations with voiceover work and, importantly, seemed to enjoy these interactive aspects of the performance.
Sound and lighting design were used to transition smoothly between scenes and a voiceover continued to direct the central narrative, detailing the monologue of someone searching for the titular Little Sketch Book of Horrors, during the brief intervals where Massingham was changing costume, resetting props, or otherwise offstage.
The show’s premise was realised with the discovery of the book, and the performance concluded with the reading of a truly, brilliantly absurd ghost story, heightened by comical sound design and wonderful wordplay.
David Massingham’s Little Sketch Book of Horrors was cleverly constructed and impressively performed, with a well-balanced combination of one-off jokes, evolving and recurring gags, and long-term payoffs. Massingham’s comedy trod a fine line between classic and creative, bringing together ghost stories, quirky characters, an unexpected amount of Scooby Doo, and arguably the best ever use of a Nickelback song.
David Massingham’s Little Sketch Book of Horrors will play at Big Fork Theatre, Fortitude Valley, from 27 – 30 October 2022.