first night

Durham Revue: Irrelevant Title

Idgie Beau sees what the new Revue have to offer

       I am ashamed to admit that the first time I saw the Durham Revue perform was only last summer in Edinburgh, with their annual contribution to the wealth of comedy to be found at the Fringe. Having been fairly underwhelmed by their performance there (though I have it on good authority that I saw it on the worst day) it was with trepidation that I came to see their newest show, Irrelevant Title. To add to my concerns, one of the opening jokes was actually directed at me, not as the reviewer, but as a fellow DST member involved with The Furies having fallen victim to the sharp tongue of Revue performer, David Knowles, last term. The Revue should pride themselves on the fact that they pull in audience numbers and out-do many other DST productions in that respect, but because their audience is unlikely to have seen The Furies, this first joke fell a little flat. In fact I was the only one who laughed. This, however, should not be taken as an insult; the Revue is a beacon of hope in the otherwise stark comedy scene in Durham and I am happy to report that this show does what it’s supposed to do. It makes you laugh.

Upon entering the Assembly Rooms, the upbeat music instantly sets the tone, joined with the cacophony of excited voices and laughter of the audience. The Revue stands alone in reaching out to students and members of the public who would not usually venture through the theatre doors, so I hoped that the excited pre-show buzz did not flag. I was not disappointed. With the opening bars to Eye of the Tiger, the male cast members bounce onto the stage. Elgan Alderman, the apparent paterfamilias of the group, introduced the male cast members as the Posh One (Sam Kennerly), the Fat One (apparently Simon Gallow), and the Child (Knowles). Whilst these introductions prompted a fair laugh from the audience, I personally found that as the show went on these labels were ignored, leaving me wondering why they had bothered introducing themselves like this in the first place, perhaps these were their Irrelevant Titles? As veterans of the Revue it was the boys’ job to introduce the new members of the band, newbies Charlotte Whistlecroft and Abigail Weinstock. Although they occasionally lacked projection, these two certainly made for excellent performers outshining the boys many times in both timing and physicality, and were distinctly underused throughout the show. As a whole, the cast gelled well together and it was exciting to see the beginnings of a truly special team of performers. 

The show itself was definitely enjoyable and some parts were fantastic, particularly the Tony the Tiger sketch, which not only had the audience in stitches, but the performers themselves. It’s a rare joy to see two people having as much fun as Gallow and Kennerly did in this scene. Equally brilliant was the Good Cop/Bad Cop sketch, which was truly original - something hard to come by in the world of comedy. That being said, the show was not without fault. It was often the case that the punchline of a sketch had nothing to do with the set-up, or that the scene outstayed its welcome, dragging on long after the joke had been made. It occasionally felt that the team had decided on the punchline to a joke, but then carried on the scene a little bit further to try and harvest as many laughs as possible, which often left an awkward silence in the air when a scene eventually finished. An example of this would be the Comedy Gold sketch, which is an exceptional idea for a joke, but the set-up took too long, and the scene did not end at its funniest point. It almost felt like this group of comedians do not know when they are being funny, which is obviously essential. This is something I find so difficult because they are all genuinely brilliant comedians, and very talented performers but they sometimes can alienate the audience, preventing us from enjoying the show they have worked so hard on. In one instance, they had a scene about Mrs. Patmore, of Downton Abbey presumably, that was so bizarre it left the audience feeling utterly confused. I occasionally wondered if they could do with some form of director who could just help to keep the scenes concise emphasising the jokes themselves. Working together so closely, often the true joke can be lost by the fact that that these guys are just having a ball and finding each other so funny.

All in all, I was thoroughly impressed by this year’s Revue cast. There are some moments of bonafide comic genius, but I hope that they fine-tune the clunkier, slower parts before their next performance. As someone who is relatively new to sketch comedy I will definitely be going to see the Revue again.

25 January 2014

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.
Our theatre that speaks for itself

DST is proud to be supported by: PwC