Part chat show, part sitcom, Bad Aunts has no idea what it's meant to be. The only thing certain is that is certainly not funny. Daniel Perks reviews:

It’s part chat show – well, they engage with the audience and have special guests – and part intended sitcom. In total, it’s cheesy and overwrought. The Bad Aunts live up to their name.

Bad Aunts Gilded Balloon
Vivienne Soan

The premise of three women living together and navigating their platonic relationships with each other, as well as their own romantic lives, is sound enough. But one thing Bad Aunts lacks is any semblance of narrative. Instead, Eloise Poulton and Elinor Lipman throw together sporadic sketches with the intention to provide comedy, satire, farce and kitchen sink drama. They achieve none of the above with impact or expertise. Rather than coalescing, the characters and formats – some game show, some audience interaction – are muddled and disparate.

Bad Aunts Gilded Balloon
Denise Stephenson, Penelope McDonald & Vivienne Soan

And for all their best efforts, the actors come across poorly. Their comic timing is off, they lack improv ability and at times even these three seasoned performers (Denise Stephenson, Penelope McDonald and Vivienne Soan) seem muddled and lost. There’s a disconnect between the cast, the material and the audience that comes particularly to the fore in the various fourth wall-breaking skits, each shoehorned into the show with very little apparent purpose other than to distract and play for time.

If Bad Aunts is trying to be absurdist, it’s far too mainstream and twee. If it’s trying to be sitcom, it lacks any successful punchline. The performers seem to enjoy themselves and throw every effort into the material. But when Bad Aunts ends with naming dead people, some semblance of moral solidarity and a guest skit from another comedian plugging his own show, then all credibility goes flying out the window.

Bad Aunts Gilded Balloon
Vivienne Soan

This show panders and lacks integrity. It doesn’t have a clear identity, and so it tries to be all things for all people. Bad Aunts is that awkward family member who sits in the corner at parties, determined to crack a joke but only receiving a pitying smirk and a wide berth.

★☆☆☆☆

Bad Aunts is now playing at Gilded Balloon Old Tolbooth Market until 25 August 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.