Did you see this sketch troupe’s debut show at last year’s festival? If not, you might struggle to grasp that ‘ZazU’ is actually a fictional parallel universe, inhabited by peculiar residents, as there’s not much explanation in this follow-up. And if you did catch last year’s show, get ready for the same jokes all over again.
This foursome’s skits rely on the audience transporting themselves to ZazU’s strange world, where ‘G’mu’ is the standard greeting and singing is outlawed. Yet too often ZazU get caught up in their own universe, forgetting that the audience members aren’t residents and might need some directions. Especially when gags and punchlines are often sacrificed for the sake weirdness.
There’s a village fête theme running through the show. But ‘A Fête Worse Than Death’ is largely made up of the same characters, jokes and ideas from ZazU’s previous effort, just in a slightly different setting. Cold, emotionless family the Spittlecheeks are still treating their daughter as if she’s a boy, DCI Bastard is still bombastically solving crimes, and old lady Thompson is still interrupting scenes when she isn’t supposed to. If these were strong, much-loved characters with new stories to tell, it could work a treat. But, strangely, sketches either rely on the crowd already knowing the character’s background, or they simply recycle the same gag.
ZazU do have their moments. A sketch about unexpected twins features some sharp lines, and although the narrative’s a bit clunky, the multi-layered finale has a neat pay-off. But the troupe could do with taking a step back from the world that they’ve created and focusing more on the joke-count. Then ZazU might be a place worth visiting.