I have always found variety acts a tough sell – while I enjoy many of the music hall delights that have become a bit old hat in recent years, it's rare to see a show where all elements come together: where there's an interlocking story as well as a long string of acts who work their pieces successfully. In the Royal National Theatre of Fools' case, some of that was there.

In this case, the interlocking story is so old-hat it's almost gone beyond cliche into the realms of lazy: a small collection of acts in a small seaside town are struggling to keep it all together, but the promise of a big producer taking them to Las Vegas convinces them to put together one last show. The execution of this classic, here, was everything you might expect, although the shtick of making a member of the audience be the big-shot producer and feeding him lines is also far too old-hat these days.

The compere (and clown) of the company certainly had his work cut out playing to the small audience, but tireless cheer and goodwill kept the energy going admirably. His bits, also, were all old favourites, but there were executed well.

However, here's where the problems started: with only two acts to introduce, it felt like there was a lot of filler. The magician and juggler were both excellent, but once they'd done their bits it felt a little like everything else was just stalling for time – including an unconvincing moment when an audience member was roped in to do "the world's worst ventriloquism act".

Three acts is just not enough for a 45 minute variety show – not nearly enough variety. Also, this kind of show is hideously outdated – with global showstoppers like Cirque de Soleil and the various acts that grace the London Wonderground redefining the variety/circus circuit, smaller acts like these feel like they would struggle to keep the attention of a village hall away from their cell phones. The variety acts that are currently cruising successfully are the ones that have found a way to parlay this work into a modern vernacular, using modern technology to enhance their acts: old school work like this has been left behind.

There's a kind of charm to the Royal National Theatre of Fools' ramshackle old-hat show, but it isn't enough to sustain them – and since they're also in need of more acts to fill out their hour, some new blood with new ideas would be a welcome addition. Otherwise, they might find themselves playing to even quieter rooms than their small Mimetic audience.

Royal National Theatre of Fools - Episode 1, at Dugdale CentreChris Hislop reviews Royal National Theatre of Fools at Mimetic 2013.2