Tuesday, 26 August 2014

JOKE'S ON YOU: Laff It Off is a rollicking blend of satire and social commentary

COMEDY GOLD: Cast members enacting a scene from the 23-sketch production.

Oliver Mair's new musical revue Laff If Off owes a debt to such forerunners as Aston Cooke's Jamaica 2 Rahtid formula, but it's a hugely entertaining production that fuses boldly original insight and up-to-the-minute social commentary with laugh-out-loud satire and unbridled energy. It stands proudly on its own.

Divided into two acts, these 20-odd sketches, products of the writer-actor's sly sense of humour and impressively keen observations of our island way of life and overall human nature, tackle everything from Jamaica's unique brand of politics to religion to even online dating.

No one is spared, and that includes dancehall entertainers like Mr. Vegas (Russhaine 'Dutty' Berry), who comes in for a fine roasting in "Cutting Edge," a bull's-eye sketch featuring a no-nonsense Mutabaruka (Rodney Campbell, superb); Gordon House parliamentarians, who get mean caricatures in the sarcastically witty "Jamaica's Finest"; and the World's Fastest Man, amusingly personified by Akeem Mignott, who certainly put in 110 percent in his multiple-character performance. As such, Mignott is undoubtedly an asset to a 10-member cast also made up of Mair himself, Lime Tree Lane's Mark 'Bones' Martin, Dalton Spence, Christina Starz and popular TV wonder-women Patria-Kae Aarons and Simone Clarke-Cooper, who both clearly have a blast reconnecting with their performing-arts roots.

Laff It off is powered by manic camaraderie and subversive wit. Not all of it comes off though: the show's handful of musical numbers are tepid at best and such solid Act 1 sketches as "Prime Ministers" and "1 Accord" would have worked better as Act 2 nears its climax. But even so, the adrenaline and resultingly spirited performance that we witness seem to make up for any shortcomings that threaten to dampen the show's overall thrill - an ideal end-of-summer present for a friend or relative.

After all, as Mair and his gang so cheekily impart to the Little Little Theatre audience, when life is working your last nerve, sometimes the best solution is to let out a hearty, full-throated laugh. Tyrone's Verdict: B+

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