EFR - Reviews of Durham Revue

Durham Revue

Thu 9th – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Sara Pridgeon

at 23:32 on 11th Aug 2012

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The Durham Revue’s offering of sketches, 'Deckchair Diaries', includes some good moments, but for the most part its comedy is merely average – smile-worthy and somewhat amusing, but not memorable. The sketches were well delivered; the issue was not the performances (although at times they felt a little over-rehearsed), as the actors were clearly comfortable with their work. Instead, the material itself is the problem – in general, I thought that both the scenarios devised and the writing lack the spark necessary to elevate them into being more than a simply average revue. The show benefits from a very enjoyable soundtrack, which is played over scene changes (though these could have been better organized – even with the lights dimmed, you could tell that transitions were slightly frantic). Unfortunately, I found myself enjoying this music more than the material itself.

In general, 'Deckchair Diaries' needs to capitalise on the strong elements of their sketches – too often things dragged on past the point of humour and became stale. For the most part, these sketches are not sustainable, but they can work well when they are tighter, short and snappy. And they do, at times. One notable example was the Spartacus sketch: three men and one woman are lined up for questioning and are asked which one of them is Spartacus. It turns out funny because it’s short and simple. The graduation present sketch has the potential to be one of the strongest of the show, and it was for its first half, until it became too long and involved for its own good.

There are certainly signs of potential within this show – the Revue needs to aim to produce tighter material from their subject matter. The ideas themselves are good to work with and are enjoyable for the audience, but the execution needs further work.

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Lettice Franklin

at 08:59 on 12th Aug 2012

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Audience response to the Durham Revue could not be described as raucous. In addition to a few nervous titters, the most audible reaction to the show was a relieved “I love this song!” from one of my neighbours, when an Elvis track soundtracked the end of a sketch. Unfortunately the Revue held no future Kings of Rock and Roll (although a suitably drug-addled Mary Poppins is offered) nor of Comedy.

There are flashes of talent in this show but they are few and far between. My favourite sketch by far was that entitled ‘Brief Encounter’ - in which two people encountered each other briefly. The very brevity of this sketch was commendable in a show where many jokes and - in worst-case scenarios - non-jokes were stretched to breaking point. Elsewhere, seeds of potential wit appear within a sketch - I would have liked to know more from Macbeth’s Three Sisters about what Delia’s advice is about cauldron-cooking - but the comedians rush on to less funny material.

There was an unfortunate focus on writing and literary genius in the show. Soldiers wield pens not swords in response to the metaphor: the pen is mightier than the sword. Even in this, an early sketch, it seems dangerous to draw attention to the power of these comic warriors’ pens. That their pens prove unable to protect them is appropriate. The literary bent of the show intensified to the point where it was just embarrassing; a portrayal of Homer clearly attempts to be clever, but has no effect nor understandable point beyond demonstrating a comprehensive reading of one Wikipedia page. Even worse is the scene in which a university student (Stefanie Jones) tells stories about her new pals, Rochester, Darcy, Achilles (really fit but always complaining about his feet), and Alice (throws the best tea parties); if your sketches build to no punchline, and contain little intelligence of their own, listing literary characters can not somehow imbue them with borrowed genius.

The show is made up of easy jokes. Many shows this Fringe have shown that if you incorporate iPhones into any sketch about the “olden days” (here the Three Wise Men) you’re guaranteed a guffaw; similarly parents replacing a dead goldfish with a live one in secret is the oldest joke in the book. These sure-fire success jokes are however merely left to hang, given little to none novelty or thrill by the Durham comedians.

The Revue shows some good acting. All six performers are confident. David Knowles has a cheeky charm. I liked Stefanie Jones’ performance as a badger-obsessed driving instructor. Jack Harris is one of the tallest people I have ever seen - a physical attribute which he plays on well in his comedy but should we really rely on our height to create humour?

In short, the actors need to work a lot harder on writing if the sketches are to be proper showcases for the acting talent they may have.

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