When you’re as popular in Durham as the Revue, with a fan base that keep coming back for multiple performances throughout the year, you need to keep things fresh and new. Last time it was through collaboration with the Oxbridge comedy troupes, and this time it was through welcoming back Durham alumni who have made it big on the comedy circuit.
The standard was high amongst the returning alumni, and their achievements since graduating have been even higher. There was Tom Neenan, who was a member of the Revue with comedians Ed Gamble and Nish Kumar and who, with Kumar, created a comedy duo called ‘Gentlemen of Leisure’. All-female comedy trio Massive Dad have appeared on ITV, Radio 4, and BBC’s comic relief, whilst Nick Mohammed, a now honorary member of the Revue after failing twice to get in, has now had roles in films and television shows such as Bridget Jones’s Baby, Fresh Meat, and Miranda.
It goes to show that being in the Revue is not just an experience limited to student life. With a name that holds as much weight as the Cambridge Footlights, which can get you exposure in places like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, these comedians have evidently built successful careers from the sturdy foundations of their Durham years. It’s all good news for the current Revue members, whose wit produced just as many laughs as their predecessors, so their future in comedy seems just as promising.
The entertainment from the alumni was refreshingly varied, both from each other and the current Revue sketches. Each comedian didn’t just think outside the box, the box was far in the distance, and each produced a ‘no walls, no ceiling’ sort of performance.
Tom Neenan was David Attenborough, all the way down to the accurate impersonation, but a David Attenborough who was presenting his findings after being sent by the BBC to hunt down Bigfoot. Who knew that PowerPoint slides could be funny, but Neenan showed that they don’t have to be limited to the monotonous confines of a business meeting. The jokes were sharp, barely softened by the dulcet Attenborough tones, and the quips about Etonians was particularly damning.
Massive Dad were a flawless, seamless entity where each of the three members individually sparkled but also shone brightly as a team. Despite opting for a more traditional sketch performance, Massive Dad’s act remained as original as the previous. Appealing to the student crowd, Massive Dad kicked off their comedy with advice for upcoming graduates. And what advice it was: always keep your degree results in your pocket, particularly that first-year formative mark for Introduction to Poetry, and beware of the trauma when facing hills in the future.
And for the final flourish, Nick Mohammed, whose first in geophysics from Durham and PhD in seismology at Cambridge certainly showed in his act. Talking at a hundred miles an hour and bounding across the stage like Michael McIntyre on speed, Mohammed was an infectious ball of energy and an expert in absurd humour that made being weird cool.
A PowerPoint presentation made another appearance as Mohammed broke down the separate components of the Twelve Days of Christmas, whilst he concluded, with a graph, that he’d never be able to fit all 364 presents in his flat. He also solved a rubrics cube live on stage and remembered the order of a whole pack of cards using association techniques. If this sounds more magician than comedian, his funny comments and interludes (‘this is why I don’t have any friends’), kept the audience balanced between raucous laughter and silent awe.
Don’t worry – the much loved white shirts and braces made an appearance, as the Durham Revue 2014 to 2017 opened the show, with some new material and fond favourites. We had the return of the giant game of Guess Who that involved a troupe selfie with the winning member of the audience, Andrew Shires’s brilliant sketch imagining a romantic life with a bag for life, and a boy coming out as southern to his northern parents.
The best parts were the more spontaneous comedy, where the Revue seemed to be really enjoying their final Durham performance together. I don’t think anyone in the audience will forget Bróccán Tyzack-Carlin wearing a tiger onesie, a red scarf, and blue socks, aggressively forcing returning member David Knowles to eat Frosties that ended up in both of them rolling about on the floor covered in cereal.
Allstars was a glorious finish for this year’s Revue. Big, bold, and brimming with brilliant comedy, the Revue certainly know how to put on a show. New members, you’ve got to be ready to climb above a highly raised bar – and to embarrass yourself in some sort of animal onesie, all in the name of good comedy of course.
The Durham Revue presents ‘Allstars’ was performed at the Gala Theatre on Saturday, 10th June at 20:00.
Photograph: Durham Revue