Skills!

Morgana RobinsonLast week I was lucky enough to find a copy of The Morgana Show going super-cheap in a charity shop… though my consumerist joy curdled a little when I sat down to actually watch the thing. The problem for me is that even though the eponymous Morgana Robinson is clearly an incredibly talented comedic actress, with an extremely elastic face, enviable talent for mimicry, and admirable lack of vanity when it comes to playing ugly or masculine characters, too often the sketches here tended towards the shallow “talking gibberish, falling over, and pulling silly faces” end of the comedy pool, rather than the deeper “writing clever jokes and saying something interesting” end, that I prefer to soak in. There’s no doubt that Morgana has the versatility to carry a more densely-packed, constantly-mutating sketch/sitcom hybrid like Kroll Show… she just doesn’t seem to have the ambition to produce anything more than a repetitive assortment of slapstick-heavy one-joke sketches. And that makes me a sad panda.*

Morgana Robinson as ‘Fearne Cotton’ in “The Morgana Show”While I found the majority of the skits here bewildering (and often a little boring), there were two stand-out runners that consistently made me laugh aloud… first and foremost was her impression/annihilation of ultra-facile TV/radio presenter Fearne Cotton, re-imagined here as a cheerfully self-destructive daredevil constantly trying to kill herself in ridiculously violent ways, while slapping her own face, bragging about how annoying she is, and randomly shouting out the names of trendy bands. The Klaxons! In the “making of” featurette, Morgana admits that one of the main inspirations behind these sketches was the resemblance between herself and Cotton… and it’s true that even when she’s out of character, she still looks and sounds an awful lot like her target!

My second fave was a three-hander called “The Hicks”, in which co-star Terry Mynott takes the lead as a wheezy “red neck” wacko, regaling the camera with long, rambling anecdotes, which are punctuated by the Tourette’s-style vocal tics of his “beautiful lady wife” Cherise, and “retarded son” Stevie. Part of the appeal here, I admit, comes from seeing Morgana sexing it up in skimpy outfits and flirting with the camera… but the sketches also have a mesmerising, musical quality to them… and you have to admire the performers’ rather masochistic commitment to film each instalment in a single take! If the clapper-board seen in the blooper reel is to be believed, one sketch (set in the stands of a baseball stadium) took over THIRTY-FIVE attempts to get right! Oy vey…

Morgana Robinson as ‘Cherise’ in “The Morgana Show”Speaking of which, although the series only ran for five (half-hour) episodes, this DVD boasts a very generous package of extras, including a 38-minutes of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the main cast and crew… 17-minutes of bloopers… and a 34-minute collection of “deleted scenes”, including an extra Hicks sketch (hurrah!) and two previously unseen characters! One is a wild-haired, kite-high trustafarian stoner, who I’d love to have heard/seen more of… while the other is a gibberish-spouting waitress/tour guide/train conductor with a wandering Greek/Italian accent, who appears in the title sequence of every episode, but never actually made it onto the air!

I definitely think I’ll be hanging on to this DVD, because Morgana is such a singular and dynamic performer, even when the material she’s performing is repellent and/or banal… and it’s also made me want to rewatch Very Important People sometime… I just wish she could find a vehicle for her skills that incited gut-busting laughter, alongside the usual shock and awe.

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* That isn’t meant as a slam solely on her own writing, of course… I had the same reaction to Vic & Bob’s new sitcom House of Fools, in which she had a recurring role… but that’s been given a second series, so apparently someone out there must have liked it (or lots of someones, in fact).

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About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action.
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