As the debut scripted performance piece from improv pair Hayward and Hadid, This is an Excuse is a rather poor excuse for sketch comedy. But allow me to elaborate, lest we kick off another Twitter-tiff à la the ‘Mr. Mooney Affair’.
This is an Excuse has at its heart an imaginably decent premise in the overall framing device; cue a dewy-eyed Cupid all at sea in the contemporary Tinder-minded world. But a consideration for post-modern times really ought to have first been given over to the platform of choice; welcome back to the stage, live sketch comedy!
Now, sketch comedy has always seemed rather sketchy territory to me. Like the literary short story, individual vignettes of a sometimes single idea must survive on more than their twist. But rather than being carefully refined, This is an Excuse reads more like a pair of high-school kids auditioning their end-of-year play, and while some of the comic reversals here held a suggestion of merit, the slow and clumsy delivery completely flattened any potential for punch.
Sketch’s requirement for sharp, well-crafted scripting is especially relevant in an era of ever-increasing gag-rates per-second, with the sheer frequency of attempted jokes found in alternative forms in effect raising their net-total of hits and more rapidly erasing the misses. Sadly, scripted theatre does not carry the relative luxuries of improv, where a remedial retreat from failing material can be engineered on the fly – in this case, for the performers and polite punters alike.
This is an Excuse is pitched as a "comedy for thinking women and the men who love them", but I’m pretty certain that the thinking women I love would think exactly the same as me: Hayward and Hadid are perfectly likeable performers, but it’s time to sharpen those arrows, reimagine the medium, and get up with the times. Dead on arrival. One asterisk.