By Annie Lucas
The Gala Theatre was completely packed last night at Comedyfest 2019 as the Oxford Revue, Cambridge Footlights and Durham Revue all showcased a series of fast-paced comedy sketches. The night began with the Oxford Revue, whose opening scene set the tone perfectly as it involved two boys using virtual reality glasses which seemed to be a little too immersive. An immediately striking element of their performance was the commitment and confidence they were displaying, and this energy was maintained by everyone throughout the evening.
One successful aspect of the Oxford Revue’s performance was the way in which they linked their choice of music with the subject matter of their sketches. This also managed to combat the seemingly random and scattered nature of their comedy sketches. This became apparent as the group meandered through scenes where they were each posing as a different species of bird and then on to another where they were channelling a group of spiritual washing machines. However, rather than making their slot less consistent, this only seemed to heighten the ridiculousness and, in turn, had the audience laughing even harder. Coupled with the music, their entire slot maintained a sense of cohesion throughout. However, in comparison with the strength of the Cambridge Footlights that followed, the dialogue between characters did not always seem to be as well-rehearsed as there was, occasionally, a lack of comedic timing. Despite this, the Oxford revue were, on the whole, a good way to open a show that was always getting funnier as it progressed.
Next were the Cambridge Footlights whose performance had a far more substantial length and depth of material. Often, the audience found itself laughing over the most bizarre set of shorter sketches which usually involved someone pretending to play a sport or throw a ball into the audience. It is extremely difficult to explain to someone not present at the show why these scenes elicited such hilarity. However, perhaps the only explanation is that they were encouraging us to laugh at ourselves for being moved by skits that were so peculiar.
One of their most successful sketches was, once again, extremely unexpected as it employed more silence than dialogue. It depicted two Eurovision hosts video calling a representative of Albania whose role was to reveal their allocation of points which is a concept that is very familiar to many. However, the stupefied, unmoved look of the man playing the Albanian representative was continued for what seemed like an extraordinary amount of time (possibly more than 30 seconds). It would be no exaggeration to say that there were some members of the audience who were crying with laughter and when it was assumed that he would eventually speak, more silence ensued which, the longer it persisted, only seemed to spark yet more howls of laughter. The outstanding level of the comedy sketches that they had created never dropped or faltered throughout their entire performance. It was also clear that there is a vast amount of talent among the whole cast rather than just a few individuals, which made for a really enjoyable end to the first half.
The second half entirely showcased the work of the Durham Revue who gave equally impressive performances and who had clearly spent a lot of time rehearsing and polishing the material of their comedy sketches. Something that both Durham and Cambridge did extremely well was leading the audience to make assumptions at the beginning of each scene only for the actors to overturn these expectations with a witty punchline that increased the laughter of the audience because it was not only amusing but also surprising. One such example of a short sketch which employed this technique was during William Allen’s ‘Magic Mike’ performance as he began to strip off in front of the front row only to then ask them to pick a card. Whilst this kind of comedy might seem very simple, it was hugely effective as everyone had clearly spent a lot of time designing instances where this could be maximised to its full potential. Another stand-out performer was Henrie Allen, whose charisma was extremely charming, and her emphatic projection and timing meant that all of her scenes were a resounding success. Charlie Billingham also delivered an outstanding performance and his interaction with Henrie Allen in the sketch where they are mocking Bob Howat for his height is endearing as they play on the fact that most of the cast are just very short.
Overall, Comedyfest 2019 was a resounding success and it brilliantly displayed the best students who have the potential and abilities to both perform and write incredible comedy sketches.