The Comedy Roadshow featured The Runaways, a professional improvised comedy troupe made up of Durham University alumni. The Runaways is comprised of the very best comedians to have been members of Durham University’s own improvised comedy society ShellShock! over the last five years. These excellent comedians are back after the success of ShellShock! at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, where they had a sell-out show and gained considerable attention and acclaim.
Improvised comedy is always a bit of a hit and miss affair. While some of the improvised sketches in this performance fell a little flat, The Runaways delivered and gave the audience an intimate evening of spontaneous comedy. Their encouragement of audience participation in their improvisations engaged spectators, who could get involved with creating the comedy of the show rather than just watching it. The performance relied heavily on audience participation. Thankfully, despite the small audience, there were plenty of sarcastic, dry and sometimes downright troubling remarks from the spectators. The witty reactions and quips of the quick-thinking actors were remarkable and I would certainly encourage anyone who hasn’t seen them to make sure they do.
Flo Taylor-Jones stood out as not only the sole female member of The Runaways, but also one of the funniest, with her clever and quick-witted observations and willingness to go that bit further to create comedy. Jonny Lock also had his moments of genius and Ryan J Murphy’s incorporation of the Friends theme tune into one of the sketches was impressive. Josh Thomas was one of the quickest to react of the group, particularly in the finale, which involved a continuous performance of wacky scenarios and scene titles handpicked by the audience during the interval. David Armstrong and Phil Davies also impressed. The latter particularly shone in his role as a camel in one of the most random sketches to come out of the audience’s imagination.
With their many different improvisation ’games’, The Runaways helped to keep the pace of the show going and brought variety to their performance. In one game a comedian leaves the stage and upon returning must guess the details of their ‘crime’, inspired by the audience. In another, members of the audience are brought on stage to use the actors as human mannequins.
The Comedy Roadshow could have been improved with a bit more variety, such as a few stand-up acts to break up the improv. In the first Comedy Roadshow, performed in Durham Students Union in Epiphany Term, not only was there a compere but a stand-up comedian and Durham’s comedy sketch group, Just Deserts, to go alongside the improvised comedy.
Despite a few minor drawbacks, The Comedy Roadshow was a real triumph and I hope that there will be plenty more collaborations between Durham’s many talented comedians in the future.
Photo: Freddie Best