first night

The Durham Revue

George Sturley finds much to admire in an updated and rebooted Durham Revue.

This year sees a big cast for the Durham Review with the addition of several new members bringing the total number of comics up to seven. With four boys and three girls, a group that big can be difficult to manage and I was impressed to see how well this came off in performance. For anyone who has not seen the Revue before, it may be helpful to outline the usual style and structure of performance – if it can be said that there was one at all. Traditionally, the Durham Revue tended to have fewer members, plenty of voice-overs, and a love of literary and intellectual humour. Their attempts at wacky or edgy comedy were funny, but funny in the way that a posh person at a festival or rave donning a baseball cap is funny. The new Durham Revue has moved in a new direction, and the dynamic added by Simon Gallow and Sam Kennerley has taken the Revue’s ability to do wacky humour to new heights. Such characters as ‘Boris’ appearing at regular intervals to terrorize our childhoods and a few performances by Gallow that warranted the words ‘Simon goes crazy’ in my notes solidify the Revue’s hold over a more left-field audience than was perhaps previously possible. The Jeremy Kyle episode is quite something, but the best example of this lies within a photo-shoot sketch that I cannot put into words, but which rather needs to be experienced to be appreciated.

That is not to say that what the Revue is known and loved for across Durham – namely whimsical, concise, intelligent, miss-directional humour with a love of word play – wasn’t just as strong as ever. The comedic matriarch of the group Stef Jones seemed to bring order and control to a younger, less experienced group of comedians. Elgan Alderman and Megan Brownrigg also veterans of the Revue had impeccable comic timing and excellent commitment to each scene they appeared in. Jones and Brownrigg kept the audience grounded in reality with a sketch based on The Only Way Is Essex, they’re accents particularly impressive, and a real testament to the professionalism gained by month-long trips to Edinburgh each summer. Alderman’s unique blend of seriousness and sadism caters to a broad audience of purist fans of the Revue and any zany newcomers. My favourite sketch of the evening involved Alderman on his deathbed, telling his loving wife (Tilly Dawson) of thirty-four years about his misdemeanours. Dawson gave the scene a heartfelt sincerity, but I can’t help but feel that many of her roles were well-performed stock characters, which is no discredit to her. It will be interesting to see her take on more central characters in the future.

Sam Harper-Booth had a consistent run and like Dawson was a necessary character in many sketches, especially the group sketches, where they both perhaps excelled more than the old hands. However, he really showed his potential in the Top secret meeting sketch. Harper-Booth enters as a Mexican cleaner into a room of three men discussing matters of national importance and continues to sweep and clean despite their agitated requests for him to leave - the audience all the while assuming that he doesn’t understand them. The essence of this sketch is the timing of Sam’s apparent ignorance - think Family Guy commitment and persistence of a simple concept brilliantly executed.

Overall the Revue is very strong at the moment – I take my hat off to them. The whole cast really adds something to the sketches which, as already stated, is not so easy to achieve with such a large group. The dynamic of the Revue has changed, but in my opinion this is for the better. None of the old black humour or word play – such as the police man sketch, an excellent example and maybe better than older material I have seen – has been lost and much has been gained. The older consummate comedians and the fresh and wacky newcomers complement each other. It is a fairly clean performance, with an updated playlist taking the audience between sketches and a very full-on evening of comedy with a bombardment of material that you don’t want to stop. The Durham Revue gets a thumbs up, and I would highly recommend going to see their final show this evening.

George Sturley

19 January 2013

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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