first night

Durham Revue: Gigglebox

Eugene Smith reviews the Durham Revue's latest offering of new material.

Another year, another round of comedy skits from Durham’s nationally-renowned sketch troupe. This year, a cohort of seven took to the Assembly Rooms stage to unveil a series of irreverent set-pieces based on the theme of television. The premise of the show, as implied by its unashamed pun of a title, was to present the sketches as if they emanated from various TV channels.

The opening sketch was perhaps the least slickly executed of the evening: its sequence of Indiana Jones-styled adventurers pouring onstage was not quite choreographed to coincide with the bouts of theme music played in the background. However, once the sketch’s punchline was reached, the performance maintained a promising start to what turned out to be a finely-honed 90 minutes of amusement.

The highlight of the evening was a skit from ‘BBC Parliament’. After the announcement of a Labour Party broadcast, the audience were treated to the scene of escalating ridiculousness and absurdity - such was the energetic execution of the joke that the audience’s laughter had yet to fully subside in time for the following parody. 

Other sketches which truly split the sides included a barman from the Valleys admitting that the Welsh language was made up as a practical joke, a Deal or No Deal episode involving the boxes of Pandora and Schrodinger, and a young man returning to his stereotypically northern parents to tell an unconventional coming out story. The latter particularly struck a chord with its audience of geographically diverse Durham students.

Revue members have also never been afraid of breaking the fourth wall, and with a sketch that that incorporated the audience’s social awkwardness with David Attenborough-style narration, this year they veritably tore it down.

The standout performer, meanwhile, within this group of extraordinarily talented comedians was Luke Maskell, new to the Revue this year. With his assured stage presence and impeccable caricatures of television presenters and business execs, Maskell presented himself as the ideal charismatic funny-man. That said, the performances of the entire troupe were largely faultless, with the other new editions of Tom Harper, Alison Middleton and Tristan Robinson holding their own next to the relative veterans of Abbie Weinstock, Andrew Shires and Ambika Mod. The performers all proved themselves the comic peers of Mitchell and Webb, Armstrong and Miller, and indeed (as an exceptionally well-observed skit about history documentaries showed) the team behind CBBC’s Horrible Histories.

With ‘Gigglebox’, the Durham Revue of 2015-16 has revealed it truly deserves the nationwide recognition of its predecessors.

25 January 2016

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