First Night: The Two Faces of Mitchell and Webb, Brighton Dome

The joke falls flat as stars of screen flunk it on stage
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The Independent Culture

Timing is everything in comedy. What better to have a tour off the back of a TV series off the back of a radio show that followed a successful sitcom? That's the line of recent career progression for Peep Show boys Messrs David Mitchell and Robert Webb.

It's no wonder then that, in a recent interview, Webb admitted that "things have gone rather lovely'' for the duo who have performed together now for over a decade since meeting at Cambridge University.

In the same interview Webb denies complacency has set in despite the duos creative upspring. Yet on the evidence of the opening night of their first ever national tour, there is room for doubt.

For starters, there is dubious merit in merely repeating sketches that ran on their TV show. Certainly they must have been under some pressure to turn around totally new material but there's no apparent benefit in seeing Webb's vague impresario character ("like that but not like that")once again criticise Leonardo Da Vinci's work. The stage does not add another dimension to the piece.

However, another sketch where David Mitchell's anxious Nazi soldier admits to his colleague that he is worried about being the 'bad guy' is embroidered, justly rewarding a nice idea with a new lease of life. The sketch just thus turns out to be rather pleasant, if not quite lovely.

There are some lovely lines though. Many of them belong to the cuddly Mitchell and his murderous character who persists in trying to find weapons in the unlikeliest of places; such as a patisserie ("Is a baguette harder than a skull?" he implores hopefully) and a library ("Could reading Baudelaire make you cry to death?"). The answer to both of course being yes.

Also admirable were the sweetly subservient sketches where the monarchy were gleefully put to the sword - or the acid bath in this case - and the plea that money for Africa is diverted to animal charities so that they could "charge up and down the motorway looking for kittens". This challenged the audience to decide between man's best friend and man's duty to his fellow man. At times however, these sketches were interesting more than amusing.

In the intermission, the mood of the audience was one of disappointment. Many people spoke of their hope that there would be more banter between the two of them.

It is too early to expect many of their sketches get loud cheers before they begin, as Little Britain's did on tour.

That said, the pair's ludicrous game show "NumberWang" proved a relief for some as it kicked off the second half. Meanwhile, "Big Talk" where Webb's meaty chat show anchor Raymond Terrific demands answers from "boffins" is Mitchell and Webb's version of "History Today", that old Newman and Baddiel classic.

They may never wish to have thousands of screaming fans clamber for a view of them at Wembley Arena, like their Cambridge predecessors did, but Mitchell and Webb can afford to go larger and hammier if they want to raise the rafters of the theatres on their tour.