Sketch Education

Tue 11th – Thu 20th August 2015

reviews

Chloe St George

at 05:09 on 20th Aug 2015

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The Warwick Revue mock themselves, both in their flyer and as part of their show, for being bitter Oxbridge rejects who have settled for lives in free sketch comedy. Yet they are undoubtedly funnier and more professional than many of their equivalents from other universities. I would urge you to go and catch the last show of their Fringe run tonight - likely to be another full house - as they present the best student sketch show I have seen, and by a long way.

Each of the performers consistently gives 110% in terms of energy, but by no means is this to overcompensate for weak material. Rather this is in order to accentuate the ridiculousness of the all-too-familiar archetypes that they are mocking. Springing to mind are Katyana Rocker-Cook’s parodic performances as the sales assistant raving about the DFS Sale and a British newsreader which are particularly memorable and effective.

What strikes me most is the variety and thoughtfulness of the sketches. The group play around with different styles and unobvious topics of comedy. Lighting, voiceover, puns, subversion, meta-jokes, politics, philosophy, nursery rhymes, rap groups and Rembrandt all play a part. One moment the jokes contain topical or high-brow references, as in the witty and fast-paced stichomythia (they’ll explain), and the next, inappropriate suggestions for holiday resort destinations sounds like something out of a crude game of Cards Against Humanity. They certainly paid great attention to detail; even the song choices played in the brief musical interludes between sketches were often linked to the scenes that came before.

I felt the first sketch didn’t set the bar as high as the Warwick Revue were capable – its basic scenario wasn’t one of the most imaginative and I was sure I’d heard a similar story on a comedy panel show once. When the group return to it later on in the show, however, it is tied in so cleverly that I must forgive them this, and almost feel guilty about my initial criticism.

I cannot finish the review without mentioning a personal highlight though: Arnold Thornton-Rice as the bumbling and hilariously unfortunate Ed Miliband was brilliant three times over.

This sketch show is cleverly written and performed with flair and I genuinely didn’t want it to end.

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Fergus Morgan

at 13:47 on 20th Aug 2015

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Student sketch comedy is, by and large, pretty darn terrible. Yes, it’s good that enterprising students are braving the fierce Fringe and yes, it’s true that student comedy can be the breeding ground for national treasures; but the simple truth is that the majority of them are just not worth your time. Even the most prominent of student sketch groups are rarely all killer and no filler, particularly this year.

The Warwick Revue are the glorious exception to this tiresome mediocrity. Their free show, Sketch Education – which unfortunately ends today – is perhaps the best student comedy on offer at this year’s festival. Performed at The Annexe, with its casual, lively atmosphere and its eternally open bar, Sketch Education is clever, varied, satirical, absurd and brilliant.

The five-strong cast (Arnold Thornton-Rice, Katyana Rocker-Cook, Peter Riley, Sarah-Jane Judge, and Matt Hearn) are all engagingly enthusiastic. Rocker-Cook is arguably the stand-out performer; her versatility, vocal expressiveness and physicality are reminiscent of Sarah Hadland, particularly when affecting the classic intonations of the news reporter. Judge also deserves mention – a chip of fellow Glaswegian Susan Calman’s block, whose high-pitched Scottish lilt is a delight in itself.

In truth, there are no weak links to this sketch troupe and they create some memorable moments. Thornton-Rice’s bumbling Ed Miliband mime to Matthew Brackstone’s fabulously accurate thought-stream voiceover is a recurring sketch, which succeeds in drawing belly laughs every time it crops up; Rocker-Cook’s existentialist argument with a traffic warden is elegantly contrived; and Thornton-Rice, Riley and Hearn’s penultimate scene – three bawdy lads tucked up in bed, whose true emotions reveal themselves when the light is out – is probably the pick of the lot, if not the Fringe.

For all these stellar performances, the show’s real strength is in its writing. Sketches are short, snappy, and never stay a moment longer than they need to. It is refreshing to see a student sketch show with only sporadic moments of dullness, so inspiring to see young comedians who do not come across as self-absorbed and self-important, but are endearing for their modesty and self-effacement.

The Warwick Revue have one show left – tonight. Go and see them; it’s hardest you’ll laugh at a student sketch show at the Fringe this year.

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