Destination Adventure

Tue 7th – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Lettice Franklin

at 09:26 on 8th Aug 2012

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At the end of the Bristol Revunions’ ‘Destination Adventure’, one “twenty-two year old woman” explains her decision to disguise herself, exclaiming “I just really like hanging out with twelve year old boys!”. I could understand this justification - I really liked hanging out with the Bristol Revunions, who spent much of the show in the role of such boys.

The four university students entered the stage energetically, looking as if they had jumped straight from a shot of Wes Anderson’s recent 'Moonrise Kingdom'. As the film demonstrated, children can be entertaining protagonists of adult entertainment.

Twelve-year old boys are perhaps the ultimate stand-up comedians, and the comedians’ choice to play them allows them to throw themselves into charming jokes that hinge on puns you might easily find on the inside of your Penguin chocolate bar.

The focus on youth extends beyond the loose plot in which the comedians are members of the Junior Maritime Rangers, rivals with the Sea Cadets or Scouts, as we see characters unlikely to be found toasting marshmallows beside the campfire: God talking to Abraham, or the Prime Minister and Head of the Opposition for example. The Revunions, however, pull together these disparate stories with a shared cheeky humour and youthful vitality - the sketches are punctuated variously by games of Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, and by nose tweaking and nipple twisting.

The comedians bravely undermine many of these jokes before any snooty Ed Fringe Reviewer can have the chance. A sketch about two particularly long-shinned people forming a community in “Shindia” or “Thigh-land”, which, one senses, could run for as long as the discussed limbs without running out of suitable puns, is interrupted by one appropriately leggy actor saying “Scene. I can’t go on.” This familiar British self-deprecation allows the audience to feel permanently in cahoots with the actors - whether enjoying or not enjoying the show.

There are points where this self-critique seems too close to the (shin) bone. If the comedians are aware of the potential weakness of some jokes, they should be wise enough to keep them short. Elsewhere, wry self-awareness seemed to tip into genuine nervousness. For the first 20 minutes or so of the show the comedians’ unease was off-putting. The actors relaxed into it however, and the audience was largely appreciative.

In short, this sketch show contains flashes of hilarity and buckets of charm. It cleverly avoids any of those dreaded “Aren’t we funny” moments, but in doing so belies a dangerous lack of confidence in what is actually a solidly funny show.

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Elizabeth O'Connor

at 09:49 on 8th Aug 2012

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Finding true comic talent amongst the student sketch shows at the Edinburgh Fringe can be a bit like finding a needle in a haystack: it takes a while to sift through the cliched "loud comedy voices" and "zany characters" to find something genuinely witty, original, and endearing. The latest offering from the Bristol Revunions, like most student comedy, is atypical of this search: whilst they occasionally fall into the classic trappings of slightly obvious jokes or contrived humour, there are moments of astute intelligence and charm which belie their youth and amateur status.

The central idea behind the show, a sort of useless cub-scout organisation, is original, instantly arresting and handled well, lending the show a strong coherence without completely dominating it. Similarly, the costumes handle this balance with ease, adding instants of humour without becoming tedious or distracting.

The show began weakly - I found the showmanship of the lead scout character a little too forced, and most of the promising earlier sketches were ruined by weak endings - but it soon grew into a solid, if slightly hit-or-miss, production which boasts a strong ensemble and bags of potential. Sketches about teaching Germans knock-knock jokes and half-hearted terrorist threats were well-written and delivered with style and precision. Ollie Jones-Evans's impeccably timed solo sketches raised some of the biggest laughs of the performance for his bonkers yet endearing characters. Whilst the other boys in the group seemed a little nervous gracing the stage alone, they made a strikingly good comic team, and were impressively adept at observing and reacting to one another.

The group should be commended on their ability to work as a team whilst delivering nuanced and individual performances.The childish frustration from one performer bounced off the endearing awkwardness or posh pretty-boy charm of another with aplomb, creating an ensemble whose energy is truly captivating. Eleanor Crouch delivered a wonderful performance as a whiny God, but it seemed that she wasn't given as many opportunities to shine as her co-performers, despite easily equaling them in talent. Intrigued to see her lead a sketch, I left disappointed.

The show's strengths were unfortunately matched with some weaknesses (although these were perhaps only striking in a show which reached to such a high standard in certain moments). As I have mentioned, many of the sketches began well but were let down by endings that were too abrupt and half-hearted, and in comparison to the better sketches, seemed to rely on silliness rather than wit.

Despite their flaws, the Bristol Revunions deliver a show which is consummately good with a couple of moments that fall flat and a couple that soar. The latter moments alone are worth the price of a ticket so I would recommend them for an afternoon of easy entertainment. Sketch comedy is notoriously flaky and difficult to pull off, and the Bristol Revunions give it a pretty good shot and, on occasion, effortlessly hitting the bulls-eye.

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