Sketchy At Best

Sat 2nd – Sat 23rd August 2014

reviews

Catherine Edwards

at 05:11 on 16th Aug 2014

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The Exeter Revue performed in a packed out venue with six very talented students, who performed a variety of sketches with energy and natural confidence. Each performer had their own strengths which complemented each other well, but Sarah Vaughan's expressive face and Oli Gilford's impeccable timing kept my eyes on them whenever they were on stage. The professionalism of the cast was proved by them apologising for technical difficulties which I had to confess I hadn't noticed.

The quality of the sketches was variable, and in several places the writing could have been tightened up. One or two scenes went on for too long after the punchline, and on a few occasions some ill conceived gags risked offending. In a scene featuring bickering divorcees, the joke “so is your new girlfriend disabled or desperate?” didn't add anything to the show except a few awkward titters. A scene which took place in a therapy session slipped into tired and insensitive caricatures of depression.

This was especially disappointing because the show was meant to present the best of the Revue's sketches from the year, and I was surprised that the writers hadn't edited the script more thoroughly. It was a shame that they chose to fall back on this dubious material, particularly when they were clearly able to pull off comedy around controversial topics cleverly and successfully. This was shown in their opening sketch, which featured a group of terrorists but somehow hit all the right comic notes.

The group is only a year old, and for an inaugural Fringe performance (and a free one at that), founders and directors Edd Cornforth and Oli Gilford have done an impressive job, and deserve high praise. A few ill-judged jokes didn't spoil the fact that when their material had been well thought through, it was great comedy.

The Exeter Revue were adept at satire; a parody of a culture show featuring experimental artist 'Hamian Dirst' was my personal highlight. Furthermore, performing a sketch about sketches, and a play within a play within a play within a play (really) without the joke getting old is commendable.

The group is definitely heading in the right direction. They had a full house who were kept laughing throughout, so if you fancy seeing what all the fuss is about, head to the 'garishly Roman-themed basement' (their words) of Ciao Roma and join the Exeter Revue. Certainly better than sketchy, and at its best, it verged on brilliant.

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Hannah Blythe

at 09:48 on 16th Aug 2014

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The Exeter Review brought a selection of their favourite sketches to the Fringe. The writers, Oliver Gilford and Edd Comforth, focused on pop culture observation and social satire. The sketches were generally well-structured and each actor gave a solid performance. While the Exeter Review delivered a generally solid show, it was marred by a few ill-conceived and offensive gags.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no member of the politically-correct police. I actually believe that comedy is one of the best forums for openly discussing difficult issues. The greatest comedians tackle socially taboo topics with thought-provoking and amusing material.

Unfortunately, some of the lines in ‘Sketchy at Best’ were plain ignorant. In one scene, a woman derided her ex-husband about a (possibly imaginary) new girlfriend. She asked, ‘is she disabled or just desperate?’ I’m not entirely why the two are comparable. In another sketch, Eeyore’s ‘clinical depression’ was compared to possessing a ‘grey soul.’ In a week in which one of the world’s best-loved comedians committed suicide after years of battling depression, The Exeter Review’s blunder stung all the more sharply.

It’s such a shame that the troop let themselves down with these blunders. Generally speaking, the sketches were well-structured. Writing successful sketches is extremely difficult, so I was impressed by the fact that the majority of skits had a clear premise and garnered laughs from the capacity audience. Still, a number of the sketches would have benefited from some editing. The radio presenter scene dragged on far longer than was necessary.

The cast all gave solid and well-timed acts. Sarah Vaughn’s backing dancing during an amusing song about the little irritations of modern life, really made me chuckle. And Freya Bardell played a cultural television presenter to perfection.

‘Sketchy at Best’ had a more professional feel than any of the other student sketch shows I‘ve seen. Kasheina Vencatasaw provided effective tech and lighting, and the scene changes were smooth.

While the Exeter Review did provide a solid performance and often managed to make their audience laugh, they were let down by some unfortunate blunders. The troop need to reconsider their writing. I am a fan of controversial comedy, but I have little time for witless comments about mental illness and disability.

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