first night


Sam Richards' commentary on WitTank's last ever Durham show.


Wittank are as funny a student comedy outfit as you will find. They transcend the black suits, converse sneakers and mad facial expressions that are provided over the brilliant one hour show. A bizarre mix of Monty Python and Chris Morris inspired material helps create a routine that is consistently funny, and in places, genuinely hilarious. Whilst at times the acting outstrips the material, the energy of all four performers carries this show quickly through it’s weaker sketches, making all of Wittank’s members ones to watch for the future.

When confronted with the prospect of a “zany” student comedy show, almost all will have reservations. Yet the quartet provide laughs throughout the hour, working together with such brilliant chemistry that it is impossible to tell when the script has run out and the improvisation has kicked in. The opening sketches provide simple but effective gags, yet as the sketches continue the performers are allowed to truly display their comic talents. To pick out an individual is invidious, but it is impossible to ignore Naz Osmanoglu’s comic ability, which stands out throughout the piece. Making up with facial hair what he lacks in stature, Osmanoglu’s best performances lift good sketches to greatness; his brilliantly vulgar take on Nelson’s dying moments, his surreal vision of what Bear Grills will be like as head of the Scouts and the side-splitting “Mr JubJub”; all forced belly laughs from the entire audience. Whilst it is possible to accuse both Osmanoglu individually and group as a whole of subscribing to the notion that if a sketch is louder or weirder this inherently makes it funnier, almost all the sketches are pitched at just the right level.
Wittank are bold and brash, not afraid to shock in some sketches, whilst deliberately intending to in others. Some would cite this as the hallmark of average student comedy; a recognisable formula of unnecessary vulgarity, mixed with unfunny surrealism. Yet Wittank are far better for their audacity, and manage to shock without malice and create glorious, indisputably funny jokes that don’t rely on odious insults or needless sensationalism. Wittank create a show that mixes superb surrealism with a touch of satire, all rounded up with a healthy dollop of improvisation. The only negative to this performance is that it will be their last for the foreseeable future. One can only hope that eventually we will have another chance to enjoy yet more outstanding material from this quartet, be that on stage or even, on screen.


21 October 2009

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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