By Naoise Murphy.
After battling through freezing winds and rain to get to the Assembly Rooms on Thursday night, and with a serious case of the start-of-term blues, it was going to take a lot to make me laugh. The 2015 Durham Revue succeeded triumphantly.
New members Shires, Bedigan and Mod are fantastic additions to the group. Shires was the stand-out performer of the evening for me; his elastic facial expressions and flamboyant gestures were a delight to watch. I particularly enjoyed his appearance-conscious Frankenstein’s monster and his encounter with an elderly ghost.
The sketches were well thought-out, consistently hilarious and brilliantly performed. The Revue are wittily self-conscious, frequently stepping outside their roles to base some of their most successful sketches on the idea of putting on a sketch comedy show (‘You’re too heavy for this sketch’, ‘Okay, so we’re doing the Lord of the Rings sketch soon…’, etc.).
The jokes were fresh and never obvious. Even the inevitable ‘Mike Bedigan is short’ sketches were handled with originality. Props were used sparingly but well.
Some of the most successful sketches bordered on the ever so slightly offensive, but just enough to give the impression of risk-taking, provocative comedy without really hurting any sensitive dispositions. A highlight in this respect was definitely the ‘singing American Christians’ sketch.
Other favourite moments were Abigail Weinstock’s interpretive dancing, the double-date with Jekyll and Hyde, the Pride and Prejudice inspired sketch and David Knowles’ excitable cheese salesman (‘I just really like cheese’).
Running jokes were a nice addition, and could have been used a lot more. The opening ‘bad ballet dancers’ sketch was a fitting introduction to the slightly bonkers comedy of the Revue, but it was the reappearances of the ‘so heavy’ gag throughout the show that really made it effective.
A few of the sketches did inevitably fall flat. Some (such as the ‘rude newlyweds’ and the ‘android job interview’) were well executed up until the very end, but the final punchlines didn’t really work. There was also a glaringly obvious line-learning issue and some minor technical mishaps, easily forgiven as first night nerves.
Fortunately, the quick tempo of the show didn’t let us dwell on less successful moments. The music choices for transitions between sketches kept the jokes running even on the darkened stage.
The Revue are a staple feature of the Durham comedy scene, and judging by this show and the reactions of my fellow audience members, they are set to remain so in 2015.
Photograph: Venus Loi