Review: DDF Opening Night

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DDF 2023. Countless creatives, writers, performers and technicians assembling to provide thoughtful entertainment to anyone lucky enough to catch it – therefore what better to introduce the week than a convivial evening of comic talent?

Opening (the Opening) was The Durham Revue, introduced with immediate energy by Tansy Adam. Unfolding a well-structured set, interspersing the lengthier sketches with the snappier, the audience are perpetually kept close and laughing. Overarchingly, a clear advocate of the group’s talent was the commitment with which each member assumed character. Setting the precedent early, the sickly enthusiasm of Grammarly ad’s meets fantastic contrast with ’s increasingly distraught internet loser. ’s King William holds an impressively stoic countenance against a battle waged with literal conkers, and Adam’s Peppa Pig was equally terrifying and amusing. Though I must commend the briefer bits for their silly hilarity – both Spartacus and William the Con(kerer) coming to mind – a significant highlight was ’s devious mime. Blending a playful yet oblivious Leah Pinter, Twinn’s exasperated straight guy and the perfection of Rees’s physicalization and facial expression, both the initial premise and inspired ending had the audience delighted. An additional highlight was Pinter’s Darlene, the obvious fun she had with the improvisational and participatory aspects shining through and giving the crowd no option but to be engrossed. A sense of fun devoted to every sketch gave the performance a relaxed and inviting feeling, while not compromising the great writing of and Teagan Booker.

Following, the first stand-up act of the night arrived in Tom Cain. Laying down both gags and punchlines at a mile a minute, Cain’s mastery of the stage was evident – and his relaxed delivery was undoubtedly justified. Breezing over kooky topics, from Echidna-based omelettes to a physical demonstration of skipping (or fencing? You decide), Cain’s wonderfully paced routine is a hit.

Unfolding a well-structured set, interspersing the lengthier sketches with the snappier, the audience are perpetually kept close and laughing

In an intriguing addition to the line-up, Shellshock gave the audience a taste of the improvisational games that has seen them previously on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe. Amicably introduced and led by Ben Bradley, the team of four worked topic and setting suggestions to construct their scenarios. Though somewhat the nature of improv, this meant that some instances met with more comic success than others – however, the huge energy of the performers meant that the set really warmed up as it progressed. Special highlights included the creation of the short film ‘Oh My Dad Actually Came Back From Getting the Milk’ (performed by and Izzy Rodger) as well as the one-liner venture of ‘Sex With Me’: both created optimal conditions for the quick wit and bold choices of performers to be displayed best, wherein genuinely hysterical moments had the audience in stitches. While a greater sense of synchronicity might be beneficial in reducing interruptions and retaining focus, Shellshock brought a fresh and unpredictable humour to the stage that kept energy high.  

Providing the second stand-up act was first-year comic Sus Hirst, confidently laying down punchlines with aloof self-possession. Dryly ranging from topics of sexuality to anti-depressants, their self-deprecating register held the audience well, delivering a fresh and distinctly gen-Z feeling set.  

The plethora of student comedy was a joy to witness on the Assembly Rooms stage, introducing the week of talent with unselfconscious fun

Entering the stage in a more sombre manner, sketch group Keith’s brought forth the contrast of eulogy and innuendo in a bold introduction to the set. Accompanied by some dad-joke-ian musical pops (punctuating sketches that lagged slightly with energy and big laughs) I felt that the better instances benefited from spirited and wacky characterisation – manifesting most effectively in the performances of and Patrick O’Connell, for instance in the ‘monthly self-examination’ skit. The awkward tension created here was wonderful and held the audience very well indeed. Moreover, a key accomplishment of Keith’s set was the manner in which scenes both linked with and interrupted each other: I would love to see this explored further as the resulting unpredictability was cleverly engaging.

Finally, appeared as the final solo comic of the night. Though derailed at times by nerves, he recovered well and continually kept the audience on board. Encapsulating serious gems – the construction of the bath salts bit in a Stoke-on-Trent Lush springing to mind – his nonchalant style of joke-telling carried through, concluding with a call-back to satisfyingly bookend the set.  

All in all, DDF’s Opening Night ranged in its expressions of humour to provide a thoroughly entertaining night, bursting with laughs and goodwill from both performers and audience. The plethora of student comedy was a joy to witness on the Assembly Rooms stage, introducing the week of talent with unselfconscious fun.

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