ComedyFest review: ‘overwhelming variety’

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’s ComedyFest, was definitely planned as the Durham comedy event of the year. With a dazzling line-up of The Oxford Revue and The Cambridge Footlights, as well as this year’s troupe of The Durham Revue, the comedy show at the unconventional location of The Gala Theatre was set to be a hit. The novelty of seeing such a variety of student comedy talent in one place unsurprisingly filled the spacious, multi-tiered Theatre.

The Oxford Revue and The Cambridge Footlights certainly offered a diverse taste of comedy than is found in the Durham bubble. The Oxford Revue’s Jack and Georgia offered the audience high-brow sketches about subjects ranging from theatre to GCSE examination boards. Whether it was their position in the line-up, their unusual brand of humour, or their use of only two performers on the large stage at a time, left more to be desired from the evening.

The Cambridge Footlights were markedly more integrated into the overarching plan of the show, as they made good use of Durham’s history and university as the basis of their first couple of jokes. A particular personal favourite, from the following rapid succession of sketches by The Cambridge Footlights, was a sketch about a nine year-old girl’s birthday party. The unmitigated condescension of the father and the outrageous nature of the birthday present certainly brought much-needed energy to the show up to that point.

However for me it is, without a doubt, the ‘home team’, who best managed to entertain the crowd with apt references to quotidian existence in Durham. A sketch about awkward encounters on the narrow cobbled streets transposed into the familiar programme of ‘The Discovery Channel’, was a well-written and executed sketch that showed off a diversity of talent. Tom Harper, imitating the vocal cadence of David Attenborough, skilfully narrated the actions Luke Maskell and Abigail Weinstock, as well as Tristan Robinson and Alison Middleton, while they strutted about with grotesquely twisted expressions.

Even more event-specific was one of their sketches, adapted to suit the location of The Gala Theatre, played with the notion of the troupe being coerced into extolling Gala’s praise. Such occasional sketches which reflected on the locale of the show, the audience, or the people involved with The itself, neatly tied together the hour of sketches which the troupe graciously showered the audience with.

Material which would have reached a wider audience, such as a sketch about the product of ‘gentrification’ being sold on QVC, ridiculed the pernicious problem while simultaneously managing to underscore the atmosphere of privilege which pervades Durham. Their overall ability to write sketches, which appeal to the comedic palate of the Durham student and all else who came to see the show, guaranteed their success with whatever audience would have come on the night. The overwhelming variety of the sketches only secured this.

Furthermore it is seldom to see such harmony among a comedy troupe, and thus this was perhaps the defining factor behind their seemingly effortless professionalism, as they appeared to be much more developed in their humour than a typical student comedy troupe.

Having been to The ’s previous show of Gigglebox, I had expected to sit through the second half of the show in quiet apathy, wistfully remembering the first time I’d seen the sketches. Yet, to my great delight, old material of The was peppered with the new, so I was consistently and rather embarrassingly doubled over and cackling throughout most of the show.  So although it was a privilege to see The Oxford Revue and The Cambridge Footlights, it is The who have given me the fondest memories of the night.

Poster: Emma Lamb

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