tue 23/07/2024

Punt and Dennis, The Marlowe, Canterbury review - satire and sketches | reviews, news & interviews

Punt and Dennis, The Marlowe, Canterbury review - satire and sketches

Punt and Dennis, The Marlowe, Canterbury review - satire and sketches

Double act back on the road after a decade

Steve Punt (left) and Hugh Dennis take affectionate aim at middle-class obsessionsTony Briggs

Ten years after their last tour Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis are back on the road with We Are Not a Robot. It comes after their long-running The Now Show on Radio 4 has ended and, reassuringly for their fans, is more of the same affable humour, with the occasional barb that they can throw in now they no longer have to answer to BBC producers.

They know their audience – although a running gag has it that Punt and Dennis take a note of lines that don't get the response they're expecting in order to excise them from future shows – and they give them what they want; a few sketches, affectionate tilts at middle-class habits and sharp-eyed social and political insights.

They start with some well observed local material, gently guying the citizens of Canterbury and Kent, and then launch into a strong section on a British obsession, train travel. It may be theirs too, as their enjoyable train-based sitcom The Train at Platform 4 has just finished on Radio 4.

Along the way they talk about new words entering the language – although the meanings proffered by Dennis sound more interesting than the real ones – water shortages (for which they have an ingenious solution), why Australia is so good at the Olympics, and what the next general election night might sound like. The last includes some very clever wordplay as Dennis reads out statements by a politician who has been caught doing something he shouldn't.

Dennis is more laidback, and more likely to improvise – and he does love to milk a gag – while Punt, clutching a clipboard throughout, has more the air of someone giving a TED talk. It underlines their presentational style; generally Punt does the set-up and Dennis delivers the punchline, which can feel rather samey over two hours.

A World of Wine skit – where Dennis displays his drunk-acting skills as dipsomaniac Michael while Punt struggles to impart information as his fellow wine and food expert Tarquin, characters from one of the duo's 1990s television shows – straddles the interval and is rather drawn out while producing few laughs.

But Punt and Dennis bring the gags back with a trademark section examining the results of surveys – on the strange things people admit to not knowing, and pet owners' weird behaviour. It ends the show on some solid laughs.

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