You never quite know what to expect from a Brynley Stent show. She has fast become a master at a unique blend of absurdist, character comedy, notable for pushing already bizarre concepts to their extremes. Escape from Gloriavale, about an escaped member of the cult, involved a mass orgy with the cast of Shortland Street. Sex education parody Why Does This Feel So Good? saw a kindly giraffe get decapitated.
So what to expect then from a show called Filthy Little Goblin? Not to be cliché, but really expect the unexpected. Stent has compiled a varied mix of sketches that take the Basement's studio theatre to some dark and perverse places, each working with a twisted sense of humour that delivers one of the festival's most surprising but ingenious shows.
One thing you shouldn't expect though is for this to focus on a single character, ala the ever-popular Providence Gratitude. While Stent wears the same pair of lederhosen throughout the show, she moves swiftly between an ensemble of unhinged characters. There's a woman who has an intense encounter with a self-checkout machine, another put on the spot at a restaurant, and one picks a fight over a birthday present.
Stent gives each character her all, never once breaking and allowing the audience to settle into this wild ride. Being a sketch show, there is going to be a variation in quality between them. Most stick the landing, but a few are a little too long to succeed – namely a mimed Disney parody that doesn't really go anywhere.
Yet you have to applaud Stent for her glorious imagination, and for holding such a disparate show together. The two best sketches thankfully are returned to in brilliant ways throughout the show, with multiple elements coming together in the final moment for a tight finish.
Be warned, there is audience interaction, but it's probably also the only show I've seen this festival where it has worked perfectly. Those targeted became props rather than contributors, and Stent's one-sided reactions with them were the night's highlights. Just try and sit through Mints or Mince without doubling over in laughter, I dare you.
Filthy Little Goblin will delight fans of Funny Girls missing that show's offbeat sketch brilliance, though this set shows that Stent could easily headline her own show; a more twisted, bold Catherine Tate who simply gets funnier the further from the beaten track she goes.
Who: Brynley Stent, Filthy Little Goblin
Where: Basement Theatre, until May 25