Miles of Smiles

Sat 4th – Mon 13th August 2012

reviews

Karl Dando

at 01:39 on 7th Aug 2012

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This review is going to be quite short, simply because there is really not much to say. This is not meant as any great indictment. ‘Miles of Smiles’ is not the Bristol Revunions main show at the Fringe this year and the most obviously identifiable problem with it is pretty much intrinsic to what it *is*: a free taster-menu of sketches meant to funnel interest towards the main event. To complain then, however validly, of a sense of underworking and a lack of polish is like criticising a fish for not flying. And, to the Revunions credit, this aspect is only emphasised by their efforts otherwise to structure things with a more considered sense of shape than my description might imply: the hour ends for example with an extended birthday party sketch that features several call-backs to some of the stronger characters from earlier. However, there is an overriding sense of underworking – a slight complacency, perhaps, in not filling out ideas or taking them beyond the obvious punchline – that makes me hesitant to take ‘Miles of Smiles’ as representative of the Revunions' abilities.

But we can cover the basics. The jokes were quite funny, but the qualifier is everything here; there was a frustrating frequency of lines or quirks or kernels that seemed taken from a better show than the surrounding sketch. Enthusiastic and likeable performances sometimes strayed into something a little gratingly ‘studenty’, but were mostly capable, with a few stand-out moments of crowd-pleasing vitality (watch out for Nigel). The concepts were generally novel takes on traditional settings rather than anything particularly new, and too often these settings were established with the kind of crudely expositionary dialogue that just sticks in the ears as awkward, even with a great neon wink to the audience. And yet, as if the Universe were desperate that the point be driven home, where I mostly seemed to smile rather than laugh, a man sat across from me consistently pissed himself throughout. Obviously sense of humour varies enough that there will be a sizeable portion of people who, like that man, will find ‘Miles of Smiles’ completely hilarious stuff. The problem though is not that it’s not funny but that it’s not funny enough. The flashes of better writing, the gestures towards a thoughtful structuring beyond a grab-bag of random sketches suggests this group could do something really interesting and perhaps their main show is exactly that. But this is not impressive enough to recommend that main show off the back of it. ‘Miles of Smiles,’ is not a bad show but, frustratingly, it won’t give you a clear idea of what this group can or cannot do.

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Emma Yandle

at 08:59 on 7th Aug 2012

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The Bristol Revunions burst out wearing party hats and patterned jumpers, setting the tone of comfortable absurdity that characterises their show. Apparently we are at a birthday party (which they kept reminding us of with great insistence) and everyone gets cupcakes. Not complaining. From the start they seem like a bunch of likable, funny people and give the audience a relaxing hour of comfortably enjoyable comedy. Putting your audience at ease is no small feat and the Revunions managed it with style.

‘Miles of Smiles’ is made up of sketches, sometimes unrelated, sometimes riffing on earlier material. This leads to some cleverly repeated formats such as the great peer pressure and deaf conferences. The birthday party aspect was then interwoven on top of this, but it felt more like a theme tacked on to existing material and didn’t really add anything to the individual pieces. It did lead to a great atmosphere though, which set off their other work and perhaps allowed them to swing so successfully between the stupidly funny and witty wordplay such as 'why you definitely shouldn’t fight fire with fire'.

They are at their best in sketches that lend themselves to brevity, with some of the longer pieces lacking the tightness of their great one-liners. Despite this, the cast really hold their own and it is obvious the troupe is filled with some great actors. Tommy Isaac and Tash Dummelow in particular stand out as ones to watch, the former launching into impromptu audience-based serenades and the latter with a ridiculously cool recipe recitation formed entirely of pop-music puns. Whilst there are a fair few sex jokes, they weren’t gratuitous or particularly shocking (perhaps aside from a graphic live-action scene from Fifty Shades of Grey).

Their style could perhaps be called absurd but smart and sometimes absurdly smart. It is refreshing to watch sketches that are intelligent as well as funny. If you like your comedy silly but challenging, cleverly twisting on truths but also just making you burst out laughing then go pretend it’s your birthday and catch ‘Miles of Smiles’.

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