Review: Opening Night

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Marking the start of the annual Durham Drama Festival, The Opening Night performance, traditionally filled with comical acts, began the festival with hilarity and optimism that the upcoming week of performances is going to be filled with the best that student writing has to offer. The program consists of members from the Stand Soc, who each brought their own personality into the anecdotal performances they had prepared, The Durham Revue shared some of their recently written sketches and to close the night we were treated to some improvised comedy from the group Shellshock!. All bringing a unique and fresh element of comedy, the night was a blast and left audience members with a lot to laugh about.

Opening the night was Eli Fuller, who performed with passion and instantly got the audience on their side, making us feel at ease in the auditorium. An incredibly natural stand-up performer, Fuller’s set was honest and their delivery was spot on. Each sentence was delivered as if made up in the moment which kept a spontaneous element to the show. Feeling like a friend, Fuller had a cheeky smile and gave the audience a sense of comfort, which relaxed them for the performances to come. Up next, another member from Stand Soc, ’s performance introduced us to his little sister and the dynamic they shared. Accidentally auditioning for the play that his little sister was meant to, was one of Smyth’s narratives, and this story was hilarious. A subtle performer, Smyth also held the audience in the palm of his hand, teasing us with constant jokes as he built to a punchline.

All bringing a unique and fresh element of comedy the night was a blast and left audience members with a lot to laugh about

then took to the stage and also shared with us a family story. Having been left in charge of her younger step-brothers, Youles’ performance was incredibly relatable. Sharing the challenges of caring for sassy nine-year-olds, Youles has great delivery and spoke as if we had been friends for years. The most notable element of her performance is her ability to use tone to create laughter from one single sentence. To conclude the performances from Stand Soc, brought energy and passion to the stage. Confidently marching around the stage and commanding laughter from the audience, Angel is a powerful performer. Each line and movement was made on purpose, there was no hesitation which drew the audience in. His subject matter was naturally funny, including trying on a Santa hat in Tiger Tiger, and to further this Angel knew exactly how to engage the audience. All the performers from Stand Soc brought their own uniqueness to the performance and they opened the show with confidence and hilarity.

Next on are The Durham Revue and as usual they wowed the crowd. Filled with sketches with original concepts, the whole troupe’s accents have to be congratulated. A standout moment had to be ’s Pied Piper who had been accused of kidnapping all the children that followed him as he played his pipe but it turns out that the children are following him out of their own will and he is incredibly keen to get rid of them. Twinn’s physical comedy is impressive as he dashes about the stage creating this character. Another great sketch includes a regular family home thinking they have received a Banksy image on the side of their house, however, it soon turns out it was thanks to their neighbour’s child. is hilarious in this sketch, clearly seeing this image was in fact not done by Banksy! Bringing energy and lightness to the stage, The Durham Revue were another excellent addition to this night of laughs.

All the performers from Stand Soc brought their own uniqueness to the performance and they opened the show with confidence and hilarity

There were a few slight technical difficulties during the show, some did leave moments of uncertainty and took the energy down at times too. Low moments of energy continued throughout the performances but only at times and these were quickly saved by the performers.

To close off the night was Shellshock! who showcased some improvised comedy. Making the point that what we were about to see has never and would never be seen again, the team took to the stage and presented several game-style pieces. As a troupe of five, one member would lead the game and the others participate. A mention has to go to the game ‘pan left’, which is like a TV game in which two people would present a story after audience members suggest the scenario. For example, ‘Break into the Chateaux’, a concept that was furthered by the performers into a burglary to try and steal croissants!  The performers each had their own style, which kept the performance interesting. entertained with his deadpan expression and faultless timing on delivery. was also brilliant, a natural on stage, Harris had some inventive answers to the games played. The favourite game came at the end and was called ‘sex with me’. During this game audience members would suggest certain subject matter after being asked by the company and then the performers would go on to create a sentence that begins “sex with me is like” and come up with an answer that was linked to the audience’s choice of word. This game was simply hilarious and the performers always had a comical answer. This closed the show on a great note!

Angel is a powerful performer

Opening Night, was the perfect way to kick off the next week of student-written plays we have in store. Showcasing a high quality of student creativity, the performance was a joy to watch. There was plenty of laughter and the overall evening was a great triumph.

Image credit: Durham Drama Festival 2024

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