Oxford Revue: With Bits

Thu 1st – Sun 25th August 2013

reviews

Shirley Halse

at 09:09 on 7th Aug 2013

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The fringe offering from the Oxford Revue is certainly very bitty, as sketch shows are wont to be. The title gives the impression that it is some kind of healthy, pulp-filled fruit drink that will energise your life. Vitamin C for comedy, perhaps. Having seen the show I realise there’s another definition of ‘bits’ that they’re alluding to. I’m not even sure what the purpose of the nudity was. It got a laugh though, as naked people frequently do.

Considering the hype that surrounds this company, with former members including Rowan Atkinson, Michael Palin and Patrick Marber, to name but a few, this show was not as good as I had expected. It was definitely funny, just not as much as I thought it would be. Perhaps it is unfair to hold this company to the standards of now well-known, mature professionals. To put it in a fairer context, it is not as funny as other sketch groups I’ve seen at the Fringe, and sadly not as clever. I wanted to be in love with this group but it seems I’m just in like.

Possibly my favourite sketch was the first. There’s no dialogue. The five Revue-ers, dressed as monks, start blessing the audience, then they strip to reveal Queen-like (the band not the monarch) costumes and proceed to make religion weird/sexy/cool. At the stage when everyone is wondering what exactly is going on, the sketch ends with ‘Come to Church’. Simple but effective. Other highlights included the ‘fuchsia ranger’ (a reluctant firefighter), getting a fix of ‘poppers’, and a ‘debate’. The short, one-line sketches were also very good. Rachel Watkeys Dowie and George Mather, in particular, deserve praise for developing interesting physical characters, rather than just mental ones.

However, in quite a few sketches, the Revue seemed to put all their effort and expertise into making a particular joke at the expense of anything else. Rather than being consistently funny by paying attention to details, there was a lull, punch line, repeat. Sometimes it got downright bizarre – I liked the use of the projector but why, for god’s sake, did you show us a bunch of animals having sex, we’re not easily-amused teenagers.

Ultimately, this is quite a funny show. It’s definitely odd, possibly even offensive – but with some good bits.

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Kate Wilkinson

at 10:32 on 7th Aug 2013

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I last saw the Oxford Revue in Durham a few months ago and was rather underwhelmed. Many of their sketches were unoriginal and I wasn’t a fan of their hammy style. In their Fringe show, however, the sketch troupe did much to make up for my original misgivings. They worked hard to create a spectacle of a show with crazy props, costumes, sound effects and video projection.

These technical features were absolutely milked for the greatest comic effect, and their introductory scene was a good example of this. The robed Revue processed through the audience to sombre music. On approaching the stage these robes were whipped off to reveal wacky 80s style costumes and they proceeded to perform various ecclesiastical activities like Rock ‘n’ Roll gods. The sketch finished with the perfectly timed projected punch line ‘come to church’.

Another brilliant use of spectacle was the drug dealing bubble wrap scene. I had seen this sketch before but this time it was developed even further. After having been dealt his prized bubble wrap, George Mather’s character was joined by the rest of the group for a trippy, ecstatic dance scene, complete with blowing bubbles, bubble-wrap headdresses and balloons.

Beyond the spectacular, the Oxford Revue did provide some well thought out and original material. Their classic idiom-saturated English oral exam tickled me. Their News Report sketch had clever dialogue and their absurd physical presentation of a thumb-war was brilliant.

Regrettably, I do still have mixed feelings. Too often, punch lines fell flat and the group relied on shock tactics to get laughs. This was nowhere more evident than the conclusion of the show. During an interview scene, for no apparent reason, Will Truefitt ran through the stage naked, shouting ‘nudists for justice’. The comedy value in this was minimal, and frankly, I think the Revue can do better than this.

Throughout their set I felt like a tennis ball swinging between laughter and disappointment. The group came so close to brilliance on so many occasions, only to plummet in my estimations once more. The bunch has talent and I particularly enjoyed George Mather and David Meredith’s performances. However they will need to polish their writing for next time.

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Comments

Douglas Kent; 18th Aug 2013; 18:12:40

The hype of associating with previous luminaries such as Rowan Atkinson lead us to believe that this was a show worth going to.

It proved to be lacking in laughs and full of rubbishy sketches that might have been amusing to a school boy.

It promised an hour of entertainment. We were delighted that it only lasted for 50 minutes.

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