It’s not Indiana Jones, but the nostalgia is as endearing as the setup is hilarious.
Bold, red lights, beaming down like the eyes of a snake. Green foliage, a wicker traveling case, and a picked-clean skull. Smoke, billowing up into the light, catching the red and draping it over the scene.
Johnny Cobra’s Jurassic Arc follows the Johnny Cobra troupe through the jungles of ‘Sketch Island’, as the cast deliver a variety of sketch scenes alongside the search for a fabled repository of comedic gold. Think Monty Python and the Holy Grail – but with less of a through-line, more self-aware jokes, and more jungle capers.
A highlight of the show was the vibrant, well-executed lighting design (well-wrangled by technician ‘Smash’) which supported every scene, helping to clarify the changes between sketch pieces and the continuation of the troupe’s search for the Arc. Sound design by Harry Hughes was also effective, taking the audience from jungle ambience to the garbled cry of a Guatemalan raptor.
There were a number of great sketches throughout the show, though some shone brighter than others.
James Hartley’s difficult decision between three paths, guided by the bemused and beleaguered voiceover of Mikaela Atallah, was a hit with all the entertainment-industry audience members.
Another of Hartley’s pieces, in which he played an Attenborough-esque knife enthusiast, showed off both his comedic flair and the physical comedy skills of Tommy Green and James Shepherd.
Shepherd and Brenton Amies’ ‘big business’ sketch performed to rolling laughter – kudos to Aileen Fang for her excellent work on props.
Jessica Murphy was a delightful ‘token female’ in many sketches, though she wasn’t actually the only female in the troupe (Atallah is great in support, and wielded her wings with majesty).
A personal favourite from the night was Amies and Green in a sketch which took aim at the clichés of comedy, the tried-and-tested jokes, all while the gents were slowly being crushed by the encroaching walls of a tomb – great miming from both, and excellent writing from Green (who also worked as Director – three hats!)
Unfortunately, the concluding sketch – a Jackson 5 tribute/inspired dance number – didn’t quite land its final punchline. The lack of recognisable Jackson 5 music/dance moves, as well as a much-needed reference back to the idea by Green, missed what would have been an easy and satisfying finish to an otherwise joyful and self-deprecating night (but not too self-deprecating: ‘This is sketch, not stand-up!‘ Amies reminds us).
Despite the final missed opportunity, the audience left their seats with smiling faces and lively laughter, which had carried throughout the show. Johnny Cobra are a well-knit team; grounded, intelligent, and charming. If you’re a fan of sketch comedy, comedy about comedy, and anything Indiana Jones themed, then Jurassic Arc is the show for you.