ComedyFest review: ‘Side-splittingly funny’


The ’s ComedyFest has always been a highlight of the annual DST calendar, and this year was no exception. Featuring the best of student comedy in the form of the Oxford Revue and The Cambridge Footlights, everyone knows the worth of a ticket to their near sell-out sketch show.

First up was the Oxford Revue, consisting of George, Will and Edmund. Considering their position in the line-up, all three did a commendable job of warming up the crowd. There were some moments of comedic brilliance. A personal favourite sketch was the parodying of phone sex when talking about dirty laundry (George’s hilarious voice over and Will’s excellent tone and facial expressions really made this). Although it is fair to say that some sketches fell flat at times with a few less well-executed jokes (insulting our home crowd in the final sketch may not have been the best decision in hindsight), it was a pleasure to have them here and it only aided the novelty of the evening.

Next came The Cambridge Footlights, who were a joy to watch. Rhiannon, Rufus and Will made an excellent team, with a clear focussed structure to each of their sketches; Will as the authority figure and Rhiannon and Rufus as the unified duo worked well as a consistent dynamic throughout. Rhiannon’s accent work was fantastic, enabling a cracking characterisation of a Scottish novelist plugging her latest book in a service station W H Smith. This sketch, combined with another entertaining one poking fun out of the process of student theatre auditions showed us the troupe’s real talent for sketch writing. There were so many other golden moments and it saddens me that I will have to wait a whole year to experience the wit of Cambridge’s finest comedians here on the Gala stage.

However, as expected, it was the who stole the show. Obviously, with a whole second half dedicated to their act, the audience was simply given longer to appreciate their talent. Admittedly as a reviewer you always subconsciously look for criticism, and there I was  pen primed, ready to note any potential weaknesses. But where were they? Genuinely, they were almost non-existent.

Yes, there were technical difficulties which occurred on two occasions (with a random outburst of Ke$ha accidentally interrupting a sketch). Yet you have to hand it to the Revue; only they could turn a glitch into a hilarious triumph, with Ambika Mod’s genius ‘end of sketch’ causing the audience to burst into fits of laughter. Whenever the troupe corpsed, we corpsed with them – wouldn’t you? It was gut-wrenchingly funny. But it must be said, all of the Revue were guilty of not leaving enough of a pause for inevitable laughter and this meant some wonderful moments were audibly lost.

Like many in the audience, I too had gone to see The Revusual Suspects earlier this term and was worried that I simply would not find the 50% pre-performed material funny again. However, the Revue ensured this would not be the case, cherry-picking only their best work. The effect was sustained hysterical laughter, with many (myself included) guffawing in remembrance before the sketch even began.

The troupe had thankfully fixed the errors of the last show; voice-overs were mostly no longer out of sync and weaker punch lines were now delivered with knowing confidence. The new sketches were as funny (if not funnier) than the tried and tested material. A personal highlight was the sketch featuring as Derren Brown, which saw an excellent use of the Gala Theatre in mock ‘audience participation’ as the sketch escalated to a fantastic punch line. It displayed the Revue’s natural flair for simply knowing what works.

What makes the Revue so brilliant is that it just could not succeed without each individual. Their marketing point is simply themselves; you feel like you know each of them personally. Seasoned ‘revuers’ Tom Harper, Luke Maskell, Tristan Robinson, Mike Bedigan, Andrew Shires, Ambika Mod and newer recruits Broccan Tyzack-Carlin and Lily Edwards all collectively worked as a well-oiled comedy machine. There were no weak links. Special mentions must go to Maskell for his persistently high energy performance and Tyzack-Carlin for his stellar accent work and crazy dancing. Bedigan’s malleability in the hilarious facial expressions department is also praiseworthy.

Andrew Shires, as always, dominated every sketch he was in and being able to re-witness the ‘Bag for Life’ sketch was a true honour. However, I only wish he had allowed the pause during the Titanic sketch to draw out just a little longer, as the extended silence worked so beautifully before and would have allowed the ridiculousness of the joke to really settle in. However, suffice to say what we all witnessed was pure professionalism. From their distinct uniform, to the opening video and great use of the available space and lighting, every aspect of the production was well-thought through and wonderfully executed.

Honestly, I don’t think I have laughed more in my approximately two decades on this earth. Side-splittingly funny, there’s a reason the troupe are A-listers on the Durham comedy scene. See their next show at your own peril; the ridiculous amount you will laugh may be of a legitimate health concern.

Photograph: Facebook  

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