101 Sketches in 50 Minutes: ‘A comedy scene for every Dalmation’ show to debut after Edinburgh Fringe triumph

Ziggy Ross of The Scribbling Ape theatre company.

Ziggy Ross of The Scribbling Ape theatre company. - Credit: Archant

A different comedy scene every 27 seconds. That’s what we’re to expect at the Hen & Chickens Theatre next Sunday, as 101 Sketches in 50 Minutes makes its London bow.

Troy Hewitt founded The Scribbling Ape together with Ziggy Ross at Bath Spa University.

Troy Hewitt founded The Scribbling Ape together with Ziggy Ross at Bath Spa University. - Credit: Archant

The show debuted in Edinburgh this summer, where its writers Ziggy Ross and Troy Hewitt were reluctant to leave after a really encouraging 10-day Fringe run.

"We've brought it back from Edinburgh because it was frustrating - we could only set ourselves up for 10 days," they say. "We were just getting started. We were continually improving the show, houses were filling up, and then we had to leave. We didn't explore and push it to its full potential."

Ross and Hewitt - who also appear in the production itself - reckon their show is a world record "as far as we can tell", as they bring a "maelstrom of gags" to audiences in short, sharp succession. There will also be at least one sketch about a slug thrown in.

"It's a show where no matter what happens, you are not gonna be bored," the pair chuckle. "As much as we don't like to put a blanket term on it, I challenge anyone not to laugh at least once.

The cast of 101 Sketches in 50 Minutes after an Edinburgh Fringe show.

The cast of 101 Sketches in 50 Minutes after an Edinburgh Fringe show. - Credit: Archant

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"There's physical comedy, absurd comedy, more set-up and punchline [material], and theatrical one-liners. It takes a pretty wild trajectory, and we really put a lot of effort in to a strong finale."

Sunday's performance comes courtesy of Ross and Hewitt's The Scribbling Ape theatre company. It's drastically different to the first project they worked together on; a play called Glorious Chrome Yellow.

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After meeting on their first day at "an ex-polytechnic arts university in Somerset" - you'll probably know it as Bath Spa - the first piece of theatre they produced featured a dark storyline focused on Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, and the eight weeks they spent living together.

Comedy is where they're most comfortable, though, and even when The Scribbling Ape duo were working on this first project, "there was a feeling throughout the course of rehearsals that because we'd spent the past three years joking around and building our reputation as pseudo comedians, I remembered one specific point where I really wished it was a comedy."

101 Sketches in 50 Minutes starts a run of shows in London at the Hen & Chickens Theatre on Oct 6.

101 Sketches in 50 Minutes starts a run of shows in London at the Hen & Chickens Theatre on Oct 6. - Credit: Archant

The pair hope to take 101 Sketches… to several venues around London in due course, with two other actors - Libby Rodliffe and Tallulah Bond - also playing a key role in the production.

"Libby is absolutely hilarious, which means we don't even have to write jokes, really.

"Tallulah is a really strong physical performer, and in her audition wrote her own material which was this most bizarre thing about her life as a passion fruit called Kevin. We thought straight away: it's gotta be her."

Putting together a live show comprising of "a comedy sketch for every Dalmation," with all its moving parts and flowing transitions, meant Ross and Hewitt "had to rehearse it to the bone.

"When you're running it in a certain amount of time, we had to make sure that the little things were perfect. It's an average of 27 seconds per sketch; some are six seconds, and some are 45. If you're doing that many changes, you can lose time on how long it takes people to get on and off. It's been an exercise in brevity and learning to write more concisely!"

Comic influences for the pair include The League of Gentlemen, The Young Ones and The Mighty Boosh, with Hewitt singling out Will Sharpe's Flowers for specific praise.

"It's a very good example of comedy and drama intermingling," he says of the latter, "it's wildly creative with brilliant performances. That's the tone we would like to capture."

One week out from their first London show, it's clear Ross and Hewitt are eager to push on after their initial success at The Fringe.

"When you're watching, you won't have seen anything like this. We know this, because [in Edinburgh] the most comparable show had 69 sketches in an hour!

"It weaves in and out in a way that other shows don't. We've yet to play to a quiet house; maybe that will all change on October 6 - come down and see for yourself!"

101 Sketches in 50 Minutes is at the Hen & Chickens Theatre on Sunday, October 6. Tickets are £9.25 and are available here.

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