Bristol Revunions: Bonus Material

Thu 31st July – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Freya Judd

at 05:23 on 16th Aug 2014

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I really am running out of things to say about sketch shows. Perhaps that’s a bit unfair on the boys that make up the Revunions: maybe if I had seen them at the start of the week, when I was still a comedy novice, I might have thought that they were hilarious. After five days of intense reviewing, (and by now a seasoned pro) I have to be honest. The Revunions were funny, but they weren’t that funny. They were just quite funny.

The choice of venue was rather unfortunate. Although I am a big fan of locations which have rough-and-ready grit and a bit of Shoreditch hipster cool, the cave that we were sitting in was not only extremely warm, but also very moist. I felt concerned that I might catch a spore-like virus that had been growing there for several months. This growing fear definitely didn’t help my enjoyment throughout the performance.

Like most of the sketch-comedy troupes I’ve seen recently, the Revunions: Bonus Material was made up of four university-age boys. Again, like most of the comedians I’ve seen, these boys were enthusiastic, charming and friendly. No faults in their demeanour, because they certainly gave the evening their all.

The problem for me was the written material. And that wasn’t even really a ‘problem’, per se. Most of the sketches were entertaining, but in a gently-smile way, rather than being laugh-out-loud funny. A repeated skit based on ‘Sex and the City’ was extremely promising, and showed real wit and ingenuity. Unfortunately, somehow it consistently managed to misstep from being genuinely humorous into becoming merely amusing.

Having said that, the theme of ‘bonus material’ on a box-set was skilfully woven through the whole show, transforming sketches into successful pieces of meta-theatricality. Given that meta-writing can often come across as either pretentious or desperate, this showed genuine skill from the four boys. Moreover, the use of sound and lighting was excellently done, combining two elements which can be tricky in comedy, and using them to ramp sketches up another level.

There was nothing really wrong with the afternoon – if you love sketch shows, then this is one that is bound to entertain. What it doesn’t do is entertain boundlessly. The Bristol Revunions demonstrate that they have what it takes to join the big leagues – they just need to work on polishing and refining their ideas.

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Ben Hickey

at 09:14 on 16th Aug 2014

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The Bristol Revunions, a four-strong sketch-comedy troupe from Bristol University, are returning to the Fringe for an impressive sixth time and this year’s cohort maintain the high standards set by their predecessors. Their darkly comic absurdism is aided by erudite and sharp delivery, always refusing to settle for simply throwing weirdness at the problem of trying to make people laugh.

Some of the group’s flourishes are a delight to watch; they manage the awkward hurdle of just coming out and beginning a comedy show with a well-observed ‘DVD Menu’ sketch that displays ingenuity not often seen in student-led productions. This predilection for details in film and television is also in evidence during their ‘director’s commentary’ sketch, a moment which showcases the group’s sheer inventiveness even if its execution is slightly weak.

Their confidence in using sound effects and pre-recorded voices is also something which is usually seen by groups with far more experience on the comedy circuit. One of their chief talents is taking a knowingly weak premise for comedy and using an absurdist spin to make it into something more; the section where Captain Birds-For-Eyes stands in for Captain Birdseye during a talk at a primary school assembly is hilarious if not a little disturbing.

It appears that the more the Revunions allow their sketches to go on, the more they are able to develop their ideas and achieve more satisfying results. A prime example of this is the piece starring Louis Dawson Jones as a bumbling and borderline insane government minister whose long ramble gets more laughs (even from his fellow cast members) as it progresses. However, the recurring sketches such as two New York detectives named ‘Sex’ and ‘The City’ are in need of a little more development to be really worth the time which the show devotes to them.

These sketches’ targets for ridicule are fairly standard; they have a crack at door-knocking Christians, the inescapable perversity of Charlie and the Chocolate factory and re-imaginings of classic literature, but it is often the way they broach these topics that makes them original pieces. There is a sly dig, for instance, at the oppressive laughter tracks used by shows such as The Big Bang Theory in one sketch although this is communicated only through the faintly bemused expressions of the characters involved. The acting talents of the group are such that they are able to deploy zany absurdism and more subtle, nuanced ideas with equal aplomb.

This is a highly entertaining hour of sketch-comedy whose near misses are outweighed by its successes. Bold, engaging and at times fantastically strange, the Bristol Revunions are certainly one of the more original sketch comedy performances at this year’s Fringe.

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