first night

Durham Allstars

Stephanie Stafford surveys Durham comedic talent past and present.

On 1 June Gala Theatre hosted the Durham Allstars comedy night, with current students and returning alumni putting on a dazzling array of comic genius.

Naz Osmanoglu got the crowd warmed up with his impressions of the Durham student, from the sex-mad fresher to that elusive library-lurking creature, the PHD student. Those sitting in the front row were, of course, subject to some interrogation and ridicule. And a lesson was learnt by all, at one poor girl’s expense – never mess with the comedy genius, for he will seek revenge, and he will get it.

This year’s current Durham Revue kicked things off with an array of entertaining and fast-paced sketches. Though some of their material lacked the laugh-out-loud factor, they did a good job and showcased some remarkable acting talent. Sam Harper-Booth built the tension as the softly-spoken Bingo announcer who becomes increasingly sinister – “Forty-eight, the number of bodies buried in my garden…”. Sam Kennerly’s recurring Boris skit was particularly well received.

Durham Revue 2012 followed, beginning with a brilliant sketch on the pen mightier than the sword - but not the machine gun, unfortunately. Their pieces went from strength to strength, all equally quirky and thoroughly entertaining. David Knowles’ expressions alone had the audience in hysterics, masterfully portraying both a pouring teapot and frustrated penguin. The long and lanky Jack Harris brought some slapstick, pirouetting on stage as a pink swan.

The Durham Revue 2011 raised the bar even higher with ingenious scenarios and unpredictable punch lines. David Head was fantastic as a psychotic hitman, who applies as for a job as headhunter – simple misunderstanding! Tessa Coates was brilliant as a deranged French ballet teacher and had the audience roaring with laughter. Longstanding member Stefanie Jones performed exceptionally in all three acts, and must be given credit for much of the excellent script.

Nish Kumar and Tom Neenan are the double act The Gentlemen of Leisure, intent on bringing culture to the masses. And they did just that, along with many laughs. After Tom’s analysis of T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ and the rapped summary of Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities, the audience were in fits of giggles. Upon audience request, they enacted the unlikely setup of David Copperfield and Tiny Tim, meeting in Klute, to achieve… romance.

Despite the hype I’d heard, Kieran Boyd’s performance didn’t live up to expectations. His stand-up certainly got laughs from the audience, but the creativity wasn’t there and seemed more like listening to a friend at a pub, ranting on a bit.

Nick Mohammed undoubtedly stole the show. It’s no wonder – since graduating in 2003 his comedic talent has been snapped up by numerous television shows, BBC’s ‘Miranda’ and Channel 4’s ’10 O’Clock Live’ to name a couple.

At the Gala Theatre we met the chatty, hyper and marvelously eccentric Mr Swallow, a cooperate trainer who gives talks on numbers. After we’d gone through the basics, (one, two, three), we tackled some problems: The Twelve Days of Christmas which, let’s not forget, are cumulative. You’re going to end up with 364 presents by January, most of which, as he demonstrates with a graph, will be of the avian variety - “Not in MY kitchen, thank you very much”.

The sketch is totally mad and utterly brilliant. I’ve never in my life laughed so much at any other performance. His talents don’t stop there. A whizz at maths, he solves a Rubik’s cube and memorizes a pack of cards. You’d think that could slow the laughs, but they kept coming, only proving Nick’s remarkable talent. He’s currently developing ‘The Making of Mr Swallow’ for the BBC – definitely one to watch out for.

A brilliant night, the perfect post-exams wind-down which once again showcased the incredible creative talent of Durham students. 

Stephanie Stafford

3 June 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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