WitTank: Old School Secrets

It’s hard to imagine an audience that won’t enjoy this show, based (exceedingly loosely, one hopes) on the boarding school experiences of WitTank’s cast of three: Mark Cooper-Jones, Naz Osmanoglu and Kieran Boyd. It should be offensive to the public school types that these three are lampooning beyond recognition, but they are actually probably the ones who will laugh the hardest. These merry sketch comedians manage to weave the many threads of their disparate, surreal sketches into a very silly story that is only occasionally patchy.

​It’s hard to imagine an audience that won’t enjoy this show

The premise of the show is smart: two senior teachers and the headmaster have been taken captive by someone hoping to take vengeance on them. They have only hours to work out who their worst enemy is before being blown up, sparking flashbacks to the year 1999, and some references depressingly deemed too obscure for 17- to 23-year old audiences by WitTank’s management. Luckily they stuck to their guns, because these are some of the funniest parts of the show.

The school itself bears all the hallmarks of boarding school pastiche: a silly motto (“Bastardi Sumus Absolutam”), a philandering headmaster, teacher-approved circle jerks and, hanging over it all, the cruel weight of “banter.” Of course it’s completely over the top, but at certain points you get the sense that the creation of the show is a kind of therapy for the stars. Certainly some of the elements – like the teacher who punishes his own son excessively in order to seem fair, or students learning to act “normal” before breaking out (and then cheerfully addressing strangers, “Hello, you cunt!”) – must spring from some small truth. Whether intentional or not, the show documents public school parlance and portrays its intense system of natural selection. That said, it’s really all about the humour.

The more surreal the sketches get, the more hilarious they become. Sure, it’s fun to laugh at the new kid drop his tray and be rechristened “tray twat,” but it’s so much better seeing the various hits of Shania Twain aggressively stomped out against the absurd backdrop of her imagined literary pretension. When we head to Australia to find out what goes on behind the scenes at the filming of Foster’s adverts, the product placement doesn’t grate because the comedy is so good. When Osmanoglu has an extended meta rant, slipping in complaints about the stickers stuck over WitTank’s lamppost adverts, it’s completely natural and utterly hilarious.

A few of the sketches fail to earn their place, but the diverse regional accents (including an uncanny anglicised German accent from Boyd) are always impressively accurate and lines are rarely fluffed. The end of the show is a satisfyingly overblown affair, drawing the sketches together in a cheerful, if unsubtle way.

You’ll only be here for an hour, but it’s such fun that you might be convinced to stay a whole term – as long as you can put up with the banter, tray twat. 

Reviews by Larry Bartleet

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Performances

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The Blurb

Sketch maestros WitTank invite you into the ostentatiously furnished corridors of The School; a splendidly twisted world, and an unsettling relic of empire, where maniacal masters rub tweedy shoulders with sharp-tongued scoundrels, and mystery and misrule abound. Directed by Adam Brace. 'Beautiful narrative sketch comedy ... masterful' (Sunday Times).

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