Headaches: We need to talk about The Tealights

The Leeds Tealights’ outstanding reputation precedes them, and as a result, they have the unfortunate burden of extremely high expectations placed upon them at every performance they give. Their latest work Headaches, performed at the Library Pub, was no different.

The show had two support acts, which could not have been more diametrically opposed in terms of abilities. The first act was unfortunately very weak, with many punchlines that took a long time to set up and eventually fell flat, but the second act couldn’t have been more different. He had amazing stage presence and confidence, and his improvised lines fit so smoothly alongside his prepared work that it all felt incredibly seamless.

Then, after a brief interlude and chance to refresh our VKs, out came The Tealights. It took them a while to find their feet with their first few sketches feeling stilted, but eventually they found their groove. Moving through the sketches it did feel as though they should have culled a great deal of them – there were a lot of sketches that lacked intelligent humour or any kind of even slightly complex thought. One sketch that did succeed however was split into two parts – a technique that was extremely effective because it linked the whole piece together better by harkening back to a previous sketch. The first part involved one of the girls practising the flute and being instructed by an anonymous voice to “rub it” and “spit on it”. The later second sketch showed a man having his shoes polished, and giving the same instructions, upon realising his microphone was switched on, tying the two instances together, and explaining the context of the first. In isolation this first sketch would have been nothing more than crass, but by linking it to the second part, it created a sense of linear progression and a broader overarching awareness of the narrative of the sketches.

The girls. We must talk about the girls. As a group that has been renowned for being very male-heavy until the arrival of the genius Emily Clarke last year, I was even more interested to see what this year’s crop of female talent had to offer. Unfortunately, the effect was unimpressive, and they merely came across as props for Stephen, the President and only pre-existing Tealights member, who happened to be superb. When the girls came out for their sketch, everyone was interested to see what they would do with it, but instead they made bland jokes about women in comedy being boring and merely props for the men…which was uncomfortable for everyone because it was basically what they had just done for half an hour onstage.

Ultimately though, it was definitely an enjoyable evening, and with some serious work and restyling of their material, The Tealights could deliver a stronger performance. It is always disappointing though to have seen a group perform so outrageously well two years prior that you were in stitches from start to finish with tears rolling down your cheeks, to be leaving a venue after having seen them again feeling as though you barely cracked a smile. The personal jokes need to be lost, and there needs to be more of the shrewd political witticisms and sharp intellectual humour, because their audiences are cleverer than they are given credit for.

Freya Parr

Image courtesy of The Leeds Tealights

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