‘The Durham Revue: Returners’ Show’ review

By Kathryn Tann

The Durham Revue deserve nothing less than a hero’s return from the Fringe this year. Once again, their comedy sketch show proved an absolute hit, so quite rightly, the Assembly Rooms theatre was packed for their final performance of Laugh Actually on Saturday night. The brilliant atmosphere in the room was palpable even before I’d even sat down, and we all waited in cheerful anticipation.

Kicking off with a wonderfully cheesy Christmas opening, the pace was set and the laughs already rolling. One of the first things to note were the famous (and somewhat contagious) facial expressions of Lily Edwards. Next was the brilliant voice of Andrew Shires, though most will agree that his winning scene required very little vocal effort; the short but hilarious iceberg scene had the whole audience howling and cackling with laughter. And it demonstrated perfectly how well the troupe show a huge range of performances throughout sketches. Extended silliness such as the S-Club 7 joke are hard to beat, but often the simplest of slapstick scenes, perfectly executed, could leave us in stitches.

Name-dropping aside, every member of this year’s team should be awarded equal amounts of admiration. Their wonderful chemistry and individual skill is a thing to be envied by any comedy group.

There’s something very communal about a Durham Revue performance. Throughout Laugh Actually, there was almost no barrier between the actors and audience. Don’t worry, I’m not going to launch into a tangent about the fourth wall; it was purely down to the shared enjoyment in the room. The people on stage were clearly having a blast just as much as we were. It’s like everyone was in on the same joke, which made any kind of fumble onstage completely forgivable. Perhaps it was the comfort of performing back at home or the final-night excitement, but to me, this looseness gave Laugh Actually its extra charm. At times it even made it funnier. That occasional break in character was them admitting just how silly it all was, and that we’re all just there for a laugh, actually.

There were, of course, wonderful jabs at the type of student theatre the Fringe is filled with every year. Two of my favourite scenes were the ‘one-man show’ sketch, and the ‘improvised comedy’ spoof. Both provided the perfect hilarity for a drama-crazed Edinburgh audience, or indeed a theatre-loving Durham audience.

Nevertheless, Laugh Actually is the definition of harmless fun. Refreshingly, (especially for a Fringe show) it wasn’t trying to make any big statements. No crass jokes or political undertones. In fact, the sketches often slashed through their own potential themes, as though to remind us that comedy doesn’t need a dark side. The supposedly male-written scene for the girls could have been making a point, but it didn’t. Instead, it mocked its own content and kept the Revue’s characteristic light-heartedness.

In fact, Laugh Actually has nailed the art of the punchline. Just when a sketch seemed it couldn’t become funnier, one final twist would be introduced, and the audience would be crossing their legs in laughter. It was an hour filled with delicious cherries-on-top.

The Durham Revue also kept its characteristic pace throughout. The music in the transitions was perfectly picked and the dancing that came with these scene changes made the whole show feel like a game of musical statues. Again and again, audience and actors alike were anticipating the moment the lights would come up on the next surprise scene. This isn’t just comedy theatre, this is addictive theatre.

An hour will never be long enough for The Durham Revue. A humungous well done to this years’ troupe. Anyone who sat through their infectious performance will, like me, have found themselves extremely tempted by auditions for the 2017/18 team.

Photograph: The Durham Revue 

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