By Alison Gamble
The Durham Revue are back, and they’re bigger and fresher than ever. With a new(ish) troupe and new material, the Revue are ready to unleash their considerable talents on the Durham masses. It’s undeniable that after their recent successes the 2016/2017 incarnation has a lot to live up to, but the group clearly feel boosted by the reputation they have fostered over the years.
President Ambika Mod is keen to assure me that with ‘six existing members,’ and only two new recruits, their line-up has not changed dramatically. Joining the troupe this year are Bróccán Tyzack-Carlin and Lily Edwards, and the Revue is now the biggest it has ever been. Despite being a veteran of numerous DST productions, Tyzack-Carlin claims that he’s ‘quite scared’ about their upcoming performance. This is due to the fact that ‘we’re the only people that have ever seen anything that’s in the show.’ Returning member Mike Bedigan is also keen to get back into all things Revue after a year abroad; however, he adds that ‘as someone who’s come back and seen the success that the Revue had last year,’ the fact that ‘we’ve already got that to build on’ is a promising start to their new season as a troupe.
When asked what changes fans can expect, the group agree that there is more ‘experimentation’ and risk-taking than before. Tristan Robinson mentions that there’s ‘less classical sketch comedy’ in this year’s line-up, giving it a greater sense of ‘personality’ and ‘uniqueness’ from last year’s show Gigglebox. Further, the troupe seem to have moved away from typical student humour, with Bedigan noting the absence of typical Durham references to Hatfielders and the like. Fans will likely be able to detect ‘a couple of Easter eggs’ from previous performances, but the group promise a ‘flavour’ for everyone in this year’s show. Indeed, Andrew Shires notes the ‘variation of sketches,’ both in terms of content, topics, and the members involved. Of course, they wouldn’t be the Revue without their typical audience interaction, but Shires adds that there is a degree of ‘narrative structure’ in this year’s sketches; a promising development in the Revue’s style of irreverent, experimental comedy.
Naturally the group are vague about the show’s content, but do emphasise how eager they are to try out their new material. One sketch in particular – the vaguely titled ‘PSA’ – is cited as such ‘trial’ material, one which Tyzack-Carlin is particularly keen to see performed, to Robinson’s evident distress. From my discussion with the troupe, it is clear how distinct each member’s sense of humour is; personally I am impressed by their desire to create material that is not simply ‘for everyone,’ but can suit a wide range of humours. As Robinson puts it: ‘there might be a few that everyone remembers, but someone else might pick out one that was more for them.’
Of course, some material doesn’t make the cut. As Mod quips, ‘you could make three shows from the sketches that were rejected.’ One that stands out to the troupe is ‘Fishing’, a sketch-turned-immersive-experience written by Tyzack-Carlin and Robinson but which Mod states received a ‘mainly negative’ group reaction. With such varied opinions, it seems natural that challenges like this should crop up. Nevertheless, Shires notes that a major emphasis this year has been on ‘giving things the benefit of the doubt,’ and on the basis that there’s always ‘something retrievable from a sketch, so if we can improve it and make it good, we will go all out in doing so.’ If not, Shires notes that elements and jokes often crop up from previously scrapped sketches. Despite their changing dynamic, the Revue’s creative process has even allowed them to use sketches that were previously written last year, although ‘tweaked’ to suit this show.
Expectations may be high, though Mod stresses that it does come as a surprise how popular the Revue has become – at time of writing, there are only ten tickets remaining for their opening night. Above all, the group stress that this is a different show, and that they are not trying to compare it to their previous efforts. Rather, in Shires’ words ‘they’re quite different shows […] you’re going to get the most out of it if you go into it without the expectation of last year.’ If a fresh perspective is all the Revue needs, it seems a small price to pay for an evening of such comedic entertainment. I can confidently state that a ticket to this latest offering will not be wasted.
‘The Revusual Suspects’ will be performed in the Assembly Rooms Theatre on Sunday, 22nd of January and Sunday 29th of January at 20:00. Book your tickets here.
Photograph: Samuel Kirkman