Clever Peter:The Dreams Factory “Simultaneously witty and pleasingly nonsensical”
Upstairs at Three and Ten
Reviewed: 4th May
Next on: 23rd-24th May
Andy, Roman and Charles are ad execs at the fastest growing advertising agency in the world. They’re also three of the most self-congratulatory douchebags on the planet. The trio regularly use words like ‘advergasm’ and ‘inspirmercial’, talk about themselves in the third person, and have a roadkill bin in the office. Welcome to The Dreams Factory.
Clever Peter are Richard Bond, Edward Eales-White and William Hartley, a group renowned for their intelligent, often surreal sketch comedy (and stars of BBC Radio 4 series ‘Strap In’). Through ‘The Dreams Factory’ they lead us into the absurd world of advertising, conceiving a series of bizarre advertisements that will have you in stitches, or reaching for the sick bag.
There’s the government-funded initiative to promote rat milk, a side-splitting two-minute commercial encouraging people to become estate agents, and a preposterous McDonald’s advert featuring a widowed fisherman and the slogan, ‘McDonald’s, there for you… always’, which is, alarmingly, probably only one re-brand away from the truth. Simultaneously witty and pleasingly nonsensical, this is the funniest commercial break you’ll ever see. It veers too at times into territory that is uncomfortably morbid and grotesque – there’s more than a little hint of ‘The League of Gentlemen’ about a couple of the skits here.
The three are clearly competent actors and they use their mastery of accents to bring their caricatures to life with comic aplomb. For a show with so many different characters, props and costumes are minimal. At one point Bond and Eales-White tuck their arms into their t-shirt sleeves to transform into a pair of pheasants unable to resist the feel of tarmac underfoot. The visual effect is funnier and more ridiculous than any bird costume could ever be.
The slight air of drama school about the whole thing doesn’t stop this being a hilarious show; at times it actually helps. And, in sketch show tradition, some of the most stomach-clenchingly funny moments are born from balls-ups. On a couple of occasions someone stumbling over their lines during a sketch leads to a string of improvised jokes that have the crowd in stitches. The audience can’t contain themselves and the gang on stage can’t resist milking it for all it’s worth. At times they can’t hide their own laughter either. The three are undeniably pleased with themselves, but to be fair, they probably should be.