first night

The Durham Revue Christmas Feast

Shows promise. Douglas Gibbs reviews...

As an established and highly esteemed group The Durham Revue ought to be held up to a very high standard. Certain performances were fantastic. It was clear that Fergus Leathem and Stef Jones were more experienced than the others – they simply deal with the audience better, which, in a comedy show like this, is vital. Of the newcomers, Elgan Alderman was the strongest, giving one of the most committed, energetic performances of the evening and raising more than a few bouts of hysterical laughter. David Knowles also deserves a recommendation, if only because about halfway through the show I heard a nearby audience member start saying ‘that guy is so funny!’ every time he walked on stage.

The sketches themselves varied. In general, this revue excel when they tackle longer, more developed ideas. The central Jesus theme works very well in places (“she witnessed my resurrection last night”) but the troupe never committed to it as a central theme. I cast my memory back to the first time I saw the Durham Revue – in September 2009, when ‘Knees up Mother Brown’ was unified by an absolutely central theme – and wonder whether the current revue could have done much more. Of course, they are a new group and still finding their feet but any sense of unity was completely ignored with Jesus popping up randomly every few sketches, neglecting a great deal of continuity that really could have enhanced the show. Had it been centred on this idea, the show would have felt much more unified.

Throughout the night however, there was an elephant in the room. And that elephant’s name was enunciation. A number of lines were lost as a result of poor projection on the part of the cast, which was a shame because several of the sketches were fantastic. Some of the lines I picked out were great, but sitting towards the back of the auditorium, it became common to hear those sitting behind me say ‘what did she say?’, or ‘I didn’t catch that’. Generally, the girls were much worse culprits than the guys in this respect.

I said earlier that the revue excelled in longer sketches, and this is absolutely indicative of the implied point – the shorter sketches were far weaker. To take one example, the Osama/Voldemort sketch contained no jokes before the final punchline, which was predictable and weak. Even some of the longer sketches suffered from the lack of strong punchlines – the Call Centre sketch was a culprit of predictable humour, giving us nothing new whatsoever and falling flat after about halfway through.

I have made some criticisms but ultimately the Revue’s first offering of the year does provide what we expect. They are a sketch group just starting out, who present a number of good ideas without unifying them. With a bit more vision, and more confidence to get out there, this group will be great by the end of the year, but at this stage they don’t quite measure up to their audience’s high expectations. You’ll get a lot of laughs out of it, but this group could be so much better. Let’s hope that, by the end of the year, they will be.

* * *

Douglas Gibbs

14 December 2011

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