Review: ‘ComedyFest’

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ComedyFest returned to the Gala Theatre this year and it certainly did not disappoint. The teamed up with the Oxford Revue and Cambridge Footlights to produce an evening full of laughter and hilarity. From the moment the audience walked into the auditorium, they were met with loud, upbeat music which really set the tone of the night. The buzz both before, during and after the performance was electric. 

The audience were first greeted by George Tarling, a writer for Durham Revue, dressed as a giant bee. Tarling proceeded to tell some brilliant one-liners showing a natural talent for audience interaction and improvisation. One felt that if this was one of the writers for the Durham Revue, we could look forward to their set in the second half. 

They were constantly able to fill the stage with enthusiasm

The Oxford Revue revolved their set around the concept of ‘Crossing the Line’. The idea was innovative and relevant to political debates within the comedy scene at the moment. Even though they were only made up of two members, their sketches never dropped in energy and they were constantly able to fill the stage with enthusiasm. Sketches that landed well contained pop culture references with a twist, such as a take on Harry Potter and the un-killable horcruxes and a Toy Story sketch which allowed the pair to show the breadth of their talent. However, (perhaps purposefully) their performance did sometimes move too close to the line and were received with awkward laughter. Dark sketches containing references to Inside Out and Ratatouille were very bold and perhaps ruined some childhood memories. Although their sketches definitely had shock-factor, their performance was extremely well written and well-rehearsed.  

The Cambridge Footlights were next. Their company was made up of four BAME students who immediately got a positive response from the audience, entering the stage wearing t-shirt branded ‘western clothing’. Their use of a sash which read ‘white person’ for whenever they portrayed a white character was hilariously clever and always got a laugh. A Taylor Swift rendition with a twist was especially funny, as a pair set up for arranged marriage sang ‘We Are Never Gonna Get Together’. Also, the ‘Great Brown Bake Off’ was well-written and well-received. The Cambridge Footlights used longer witty sketches to address both underlying racial issues in society and the struggles they themselves face. This was especially clever and a step in the right direction for comedy. However, the longer sketches sometimes tailed off and often didn’t have a clear ending. Their company also seemed the least prepared and rehearsed out of the three acts which meant stumbles sometimes threw the comic timing off which was a shame. 

Their performance never missed a beat

After the interval, The entered the stage to raucous applause, their energy was as contagious as ever. It is hard to pinpoint the sketches which got the most laughs because they all were superbly executed and received. From the outset their form was high, and their performance never missed a beat, it was thoroughly well rehearsed and timed. The set saw a mixture of long sketches, relatable situations, short one-liners and a moment of audience interaction which left us howling with laughter. This year’s newcomers and fit right in and had their moments in the spotlight, with Hargreaves receiving applause for her impeccable fluency in cockney slang and Nicholson displaying hilarious characterisation as both the Dolmio man and Bob the Builder. T

he technical direction by Michael Crilly was slick throughout all three sets but certainly had time to shine after the interval. The music and lighting certainly added an extra layer of professionalism to Durham Revue’s sketches but also aided the punchlines.

Whilst the ending did feel slightly abrupt, the audience left the theatre still laughing and discussing sketches and jokes. This was the type of theatre which could keep you laughing once you left. ComedyFest is an annual highlight in the Durham Student Theatre calendar which showcases some incredible comedy writing and acting and which never ceases to impress and entertain. 

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