My viewing of Two Balls in a Bag had a pretty heroic comeback. When the titular Twins, Annie McGrath and Jack Barry, emerge onto the stage they’re greeted by 12, maybe 15, people. They do their best to launch into their intro but it seems the turnout is obviously off-putting. They acknowledge it with humour and grace, but things are still feeling stiff. It’s hard not to sympathise given their 11pm slot – on a Sunday this time – and lack of promotion. They assure us, with good humour, that the last show was more packed.
It’s hard to say where it began to feel like everything was going to be alright, but probably somewhere near the first proper sketch. By this point the small audience is an artfully integrated running joke, and the show picks up a special intimacy for it. Before long it seems we’ve all bought into the show, and things begin in earnest.
The over-arching joke is that the pair are identical twins, despite being thoroughly not identical – and should I venture, not even twins. Much of the laughs stem from this genially immature premise, and the pair are constantly riffing on stereotypes and received knowledge about twins.
It’s not all just silly jokes though, it’s silly jokes in a narrative about who killed the twin’s grandmother. To this end they employ the power of acting and props to slip into the personas of various family members, with amusing results. Among them are fictionalised parents, a crap chat show host, and several Jims. Quite why they need to catalogue family members to solve the murder is a pedantic query, and it’s really just an excuse to introduce some daft characters, while keeping things thematically familial.
Two Balls in a Bag is wholly chaotic, and really enormous fun. For the most part the anarchy and sloppiness drive the humour, which might seem lazy, but it’s hard to argue they haven’t put effort into achieving just the right ratio of shambolic to controlled. It’s most clear in crowd interaction that they’re more than capable of taking back the reigns if things go wrong. Not that the audience involvement does go wrong, just that there’s a sense that they have a safety net if participants are underwhelming, as often members of the public can be.
The slightly deflated ending doesn’t feel well structured, but is still funny and doesn’t leave a bad impression. It’s hard to be harsh about the wobbly start, given the honestly spectacular turnaround. It’s nonsensical, childish, and a little mad. There’s not much to complain about here, I guess if you don’t like incest jokes then give it a miss.
★★★★ (and a half)